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Chuks Udo Okonta
The National Pension Commission (PenCom) today joined the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in a sensitisation workshop on the eradication of pension fraud in Nigeria.
The Director-General of PenCom, Mrs. Aisha Dahir-Umar, while giving her goodwill message at the event in Abuja, said the National Pension Commission is, indeed, pleased to partner the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission in the awareness creation initiative, which essentially seeks to examine the incidences of fraud in the pension sector in Nigeria and ways of eradicating the menace in a proactive manner.
She noted that the event will, no doubt, create the synergy needed to boost the efforts of the two organisations in the discharge of their respective statutory mandates relating to the theme of the workshop, which was ‘Eradication of Pension Fraud in Nigeria.’
She submitted that the problems of fraud and mismanagement in the pension sector in Nigeria were amongst the reasons that necessitated the pension reform of 2004 by the Federal Government, adding that Pension Reform Act 2004, which was later reviewed and re-enacted in 2014, introduced legal and institutional frameworks aimed at addressing the rot that characterised the administration of pensions in the pre-reform era.
The Act, she said, also established PenCom to regulate and supervise all pension matters in Nigeria, including the licensing of Pension Fund Administrators (PFAs) and Pension Fund Custodians (PFCs), stressing that the Pension Transitional Arrangements Directorate (PTAD) was also established by the PRA 2014 to administer, in a transparent manner, the Defined Benefits Scheme (DBS) for pensioners exempted from the Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS).
These measures, she noted substantially restored credibility and confidence in Nigeria’s pension systems, adding that today, there is an industry that has accumulated pension assets in excess of N13 trillion, invested in various aspects of the economy and still growing.
“Pursuant to its statutory mandate under Section 23(f) of the PRA 2014, PenCom has consistently undertaken public education, enlightenment and awareness campaigns on the CPS and other pension matters. It has also developed and established structures, systems and procedures that ensure transparency, accountability and efficiency in the administration of pension in Nigeria.
“These systems and procedures have become reference points for other African countries, many of whom have undertaken study visits to the Commission.
“However, as it is the case with every human endeavor, retrogressive elements continued to exploit procedural gaps in the operations of pension practitioners in both the CPS and DBS to the detriment of unsuspecting public. Thus, new issues and challenges continue to emerge, which place special responsibility on the regulators, the operators and other stakeholders to constantly review their operating environment with a view to finding solutions to address the problems,” she said.
The PenCom boss said the PRA 2014 had strengthened Nigeria’s pension institutions in both the Contributory and Defined Benefits Schemes, and imbued them with the capacity to rise above emerging challenges. Thus, while these institutions explore their respective, the continued collaboration with the EFCC would certainly serve as catalyst for reducing the menace of fraud in the pension industry to the barest minimum, she added.
“Indeed, we must recognize the uniqueness of today’s workshop, which has literally taken our collaboration to the next level. Stakeholders have all converge to discuss within the two days of this workshop, the entire ramifications of fraud in the pension administration space, understand the issues, share experiences and find proactive ways of preventing their occurrence. This is indeed a mutually beneficial and veritable platform which we must all keep and ensure it’s sustainability,” she said.
She commended the foresight and dynamism of the leadership of the EFCC for accepting to collaborate with PenCom for the workshop despite the preponderance of other daunting challenges being tackled by the EFCC in the country. This demonstrates the importance given by the EFCC to issues that concern our senior citizens, she posited.