A few weeks ago, the federal government announced the removal of the Director General of the National Pension Commission (PenCom), Mrs Chinelo Anohu-Amazu, who was immediately replaced by Alhaji Aliyu Abdulrahman Dikko. In reconstituting the board, Mr Funso Doherty was also announced as the new chairman to replace former PDP National Chairman, Alhaji Ahmed Adamu Muazu.
Since PenCom is a statutory agency where appointments require Senate confirmation, there was a lacuna that did not escape the attention of the lawmakers who instantly asked the appointees not to resume work.
However, there are also a few critical issues that are still lingering. One, Anohu-Amazu was confirmed as DG on 30th September, 2014 for a five-year term, which ordinarily was expected to end on 29th September, 2019.
Two, the man initially named to succeed her hails from the North-west, a violation of Section 21 (2) of PRA 2014 which states that, “In the event of a vacancy, the President shall appoint a replacement from the geo-political zone of the immediate past member who vacated the office to complete the remaining tenure.”
Since Anohu-Amazu hails from the South-east geo-political zone, why was another person not appointed from that zone to complete her tenure as prescribed by law?
Three, Dikko’s appointment ran contrary to Section 19 (5) of PRA 2014 which says that “the chairman and members of the PenCom Board shall not own controlling shares in any of the pension funds administrator or pension funds custodian prior to or during their tenure of office as chairman or members of the board”.
Arguably one of the most successful entrepreneurs in Abuja with considerable interest in real estate and the education sector, Dikko is currently a majority shareholder at Premium Pension Limited, one of the fastest growing pension funds administrators in the country today.
Apparently mindful of the foregoing, the federal government last weekend made changes by sending Dikko to the Bank of Industry (BoI) as Chairman of a reconstituted board.
That, I must say, is most fitting for a man of his pedigree who can bring his business acumen and wealth of experience to bear on BoI while the conflict of interest arising from his earlier appointment has been resolved.
But the appointment of Doherty who hails from the South-west as the new Director-General appears to me as a clear breach of the PenCom law, regardless of whatever may be his qualifications for the job.
In a nation where critical institutions, especially those with substantial funds, hardly survive one administration, it is a credit to the vision of President Olusegun Obasanjo and the then Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) Director General, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, who wrote the first concept paper as well as Mr Fola Adeola, the founding chairman of PenCom and his supporting staff, including Anohu-Amazu, that they have created a mega institution out of nothing.
Between these people, they gave Nigeria the law which governs and regulate the administration of the uniform Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS) for both the public and private sectors in our country today.
That is why the cynical manner in which an important, and very delicate, agency like PenCom is being treated should worry critical stakeholders.
But the more worrisome aspect of the recent changes was the unfortunate ethnic slant that unwittingly gave oxygen to all sorts of pro-Biafra franchises, a vocal minority that has practically hijacked the otherwise genuine conversation in the South-east because of the disposition of the current administration.
What happened on Tuesday in the South-east should teach the Buhari administration a lesson in how not to alienate a people.
Indeed, if there is anything that has given impetus to the renewed agitation for “Biafra”, it is in the manner the Buhari government has responded to issues concerning the Igbos, especially in terms of appointments.
Unfortunately, it is now difficult to give the president any benefit of the doubt given the recent declaration by the Labour and Productivity Minister, Dr Chris Ngige.
“They (Igbo people) refused to listen to me and to make matter worse, there was no voting in most of the areas in the South-east; they just allocated 5 per cent to APC. It was that bad.
Politics is business in a way, you invest in business and you reap profit” said Ngige whose rationalization for whatever may be the lot of the South-east today is that it should be located at the way the people voted in the 2015 presidential election.
Incidentally, Ngige was only reinforcing the earlier position of President Buhari with his “97 percent and five percent” thesis. Yet, any keen follower of the Nigerian social media cannot but see the slant of debate over the PenCom appointments.
The removal of Anohu-Amazu is viewed as part of the “anti-Igbo agenda” of the Buhari administration.
Even if that may not be true, the administration has provided ready ammunition with the fact that it responded to a similar situation in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) by adhering strictly to the law in the correction of an earlier mistake in appointments.
Why then is the PenCom situation being treated differently?
Meanwhile, the tenure of Anohu-Amazu, who served as the pioneer Secretary/Legal Adviser of the Pension Commission, before becoming the Director General in December 2014 recorded a geometric rise in pension assets, which stood at N2.4 trillion in 2014 and was N6.5 trillion at the time of her exit from the commission.