…the Abba Kyari Connection
…Abdulrasheed Maina may Succeed DG
Details are gradually emerging on the real reasons for the removal of Director-General of the National Pension Commission, PenCom, Mrs. Chinelo Anohu-Amazu and the Commissioners.
It would be recalled that the Federal Government (FG) had on Thursday, 13th April 2017, announced the removal of Mrs. Anohu-Amazu alongside all the agency’s Commissioners.
The statement by the Director, Press and Public Affairs, Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) also announced the nomination of Dikko Aliyu Abdulrahman as the new DG, while Funsho Doherty, an associate of the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, was nominated as the Chairman of the Commission. Also, Akin Akinwale, Abubakar Zaki Magawata, Nyerere Anyim, and Ben Oviosun were nominated as Commissioners pending Senate’s confirmation.
However, impeccable sources at the Presidency said PenCom was initially not among the over 22 agencies, which leaderships were penciled down for change or replacement.
It was gathered that the DG and her team were removed for refusing to ‘cooperate’ or “play ball” with pension funds despite pressures mounted on her by some hawks at the Aso Rock Villa for a long time now, though without the knowledge of President Muhammadu Buhari.
According to the source, “When the administration came in newly, some bad eggs who neither meant well for the country nor genuinely bought into the change agenda of the President never hid the fact that their eyes were on PenCom because of the trillions of naira under its watch.
“In order to take over the place, they alleged that billions and trillions were released by PenCom for Goodluck Jonathan’s campaign and therefore set out to quietly probe the agency. It is the most probed institution by the anti-graft and security agencies, but to no avail. There have been pressures on her by some bad eggs to release funds, but she had always said that she would rather leave the job than allow anybody to fritter away pensioners’ money.”
“So, because of her refusal to yield grounds, she has been a marked woman, but since the opportunity did not present itself, the cabal bid its time”.
It was gathered that when the final approval of the President for new leadership for the many FG agencies were sought, the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, and the now suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Lawal Babachir, lied to the President that the leadership of PenCom had only two months out of their five-year tenure remaining, hence their successors needed to be named ahead of their terminal leave.
Inside sources also said that although Funsho Doherty was slated for the Director-Generalship of the agency, Abba Kyari played a fast one before the President’s approval by substituting Doherty’s name with that of his cousin, Aliyu Dikko, who was to have emerged the Chairman of the Board.
“It was in that hurry that they committed the blunders against the letters and spirit of the Pension Reform Act (PRA) 2014”.
The position of the DG and Commissioners are tenured appointments. That is five and four years, respectively, but could be renewed. But, because some people allegedly wanted to lay their hands on the pension trillions, they were said not to have bothered to comply with Sections 19, 20, and 21 of the PRA 2014.
A lawyer at the Ministry of Finance, who condemned the action said: “The only condition based on which they could have removed the pension management in this instance was Section 21 (1)(j), which empowers to remove a member of the Commission, if ‘the President is satisfied that it is not in the interest of the Commission or public for the person to continue in office and notifies the member in writing to that effect’.
“But because they were in a hurry, they didn’t take those preconditions into cognisance”.
Insiders at the Office of the SGF and Ministry of Finance, the parent Ministry of PenCom also affirmed that not only were the removed leadership of PenCom not notified in writing before their removal, but even their letters of disengagement were yet to be written as at Friday April 21 2017.
The source, however, revealed that Abba Kyari’s decision to place his cousin and former boy at the United Bank for Africa (UBA) in charge of over N6.5 trillion pension fund did not go down well with other Villa cabals, who were clear on the role they expect the fund to play in the 2019 general elections.
“The truth is that the APC could not hold its Convention, its NEC and National Caucus meetings due to paucity of funds. The party headquarters is a ghost of itself and there is hunger since staff salaries are not paid. The governors feel aggrieved that the men around the President have cornered all the juicy ministries, agencies, board appointments, contracts, and other opportunities. In most cases, they are not even consulted.
“So, with heavy funders like the governors, Senator Bola Tinubu, Rotimi Amaechi, among others out of the picture, the Villa cabals are seeking alternative sources of election war chest, hence the desperation to take hold of PenCom and other juicy agencies.
“But the truth is that the President is not aware of the games they are playing above his head. In fact, they believe he would likely not contest because of his health challenges and age, hence everyman wants to get prepared. That was why Kyari felt that allowing Funsho Doherty, Osinbajo’s close ally to head PenCom, in addition to the Federal Inland Revenue (FIRS) headed by Dr. Babatunde Fowler, Tinubu’s right hand man, would give the VP and Tinubu’s camp an upper hand going into 2019”.
Meanwhile, pension stakeholders and PenCom staff are spoiling for war, alleging that the overt breach of PRA 2014 and the change of a performing leadership was to pave way for the return of impunity and looting in the pension industry as well as reverse the tremendous gains of the pension reform.
Also, staff who spoke to a national daily last week said: “Mrs. Anohu-Amazu’s leadership has turned around the fortunes of the hitherto moribund pension industry, which was growing at a very low rate compared to the immense innovations and international best practices inherent in the pension industry today.
“The pension asset since the enactment of the Act 2004 to 2014 stood at 2.5 trillion in 10 years and the DG within her 3 years has been able to raise the pension assets to 6.5 trillion.
“Importantly, the growth was made possible because she has been part of the pension reform from the inception. She understands the terrain, knows the industry inside out, and knows how to keep looting and corruption at bare through strict regulation and enforcement.
“She has taken several people to court for attempting to defraud the industry, hence serving as a deterrent to others. So, the question is, why change a winning team if not to clear the way to hijack the pension funds?”
Another twist has also been added as the embattled former Chairman of the Police Pension Reform Task Force, Abdulrasheed Maina, may have been tipped to return to the pension industry as DG PenCom.
This is in view of the contentions in the media that Dikko is already knocked out by provisions of the PRA 2014.
Maina, it could be recalled, has been having a running battle with anti-graft and security agencies over alleged N195 billion-pension fraud.
Nevertheless, the Villa cabal believes he, unlike the removed PenCom leadership, would have the heart to execute ‘instructions’.
However, a pensioner, Rasaq Garba has warned politicians to remove their eyes from pension funds as they prepare for 2019 as any attempt to tamper with the funds would have serious consequences.
Meanwhile, the preponderant opinion among pension stakeholders and Nigerians is that this development could create crisis in the pension industry and the massive changes in 23 FG agencies are fraught with irregularities and selfish interests. They urged the President to suspend and investigate the entire changes announced by the suspended SGF, Lawal Babachir.