Against report that men of the Department of State Security (DSS) raided the head office of the National Pension Commission (PenCom) last Friday over the alleged plot to backdate documents, fresh investigation shows that the invasion was part of a grand plan by the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, to force his cousin, Aliyu Dikko Abdulrahman into the Commission as Director-General (DG) of PenCom without confirmation of the Senate.
Multiple sources alleged that Abba Kyari ordered the siege and delivery of the letter terminating the appointment of the outgoing DG, Mrs. Chinelo Anohu-Amazu, Friday evening, to avert the reversal by President Muhammadu Buhari, of the ‘palace coups’ executed by himself and the suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Engr. Lawal Babachir.
Insiders at both the SGF’s Office and PenCom revealed that although the removal of PenCom management was announced by the Office of the SGF on Thursday, 13th April, 2017, it was only at about 5.45pm on Friday 20th April that SGF’s office delivered the letter of removal to the outgoing Director-General, Mrs. Chinelo Anohu-Amazu.
It was also gathered that the disengagement letter of the Commissioners, whose removal and replacement were announced on the same day, were yet to be processed by the Office of the SGF and delivered at PenCom.
It will be recalled that the statement by SGF’s Office announced the nomination of Akin Akinwale, Abubakar Zaki Magawata, Nyerere Anyim, and Ben Oviosun as Commissioners, while Dikko Aliyu Abdulrahman and Funsho Doherty, an associate of the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, were nominated as DG and Board Chairman, respectively.
Close associates confirmed that Mrs. Anohu-Amazu had personally placed several calls and also sent her staff on daily basis to SGF’s office to demand her disengagement letter and those of the outgoing Commissioners as she could not leave the nearly N7 trillion pension fund to nobody.
“There was no way she could have walked away as the DG of PenCom just based on newspaper reports and without a proper letter of disengagement also clearly instructing her whom to hand over to. In fact, that letter ought to have come before the announcement but it came after one week.”
Officials cited by this media house revealed that the delay in the processing of the letter was due to the dilemma created by the failure of those who masterminded the removal of the PenCom management to take into cognisance relevant provisions of the Pension Reform Act (PRA) 2014.
They claimed that PenCom was initially not among the over 20 agencies marked for change or replacement of leadership, but was smuggled in by some Villa hawks for her refusal to allegedly bow to pressure on her to ‘play ball’ with pension funds against the spirit of the anti-corruption war of the President.
“Some bad eggs in government who do not mean well Nigeria or genuinely buy into the change agenda of the President, have been targeting the trillions in pension vaults guarded by PenCom. But the PenCom management would not ‘play ball’.
“Therefore, they first alleged that over a trillion was released by PenCom for Goodluck Jonathan’s re-election bid, hoping to find reasons to sack the management and install their stooges. PenCom is probably the most probed institution. But they found nothing.”
The cabal had also tried to use influential chieftains of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to get the President to change the leadership of PenCom, but always met a brick wall as the President had always insisted that the management was doing well.
But the cabal had the long-awaited opportunity during the President’s final approval for new leadership for 22 FG agencies. It was gathered that the Chief of Staff to the President and the currently suspended SGF, Lawal Babachir, told the President that it was the right time to also fill in the vacancy at PenCom created by the death of the Commissioner representing South West at the agency, late Prince Adesoji Olaoba-Efuntayo, who died in April 2016.
However, they went beyond the mark to change the entire leadership. When questioned, they reportedly told the President that PenCom management had only two months out of their five-year tenure remaining, hence the need to name their successors ahead. But the management had only done two years and five months.
Although Funsho Doherty was slated for the Director-Generalship of the agency, the Chief of Staff, Kyari played a fast one before the President’s final approval by substituting Doherty’s name with that of his cousin, Aliyu Dikko, initially penned down for Chairman of PenCom Board.
However, out of impunity or desperate haste to lay hands on the strings of the pension trillions, they failed to comply with Sections 19, 20, and 21 of the PRA 2014. Findings show, for instance, that DG and Commissioners are tenured appointments of five for DG and four years for Commissioners, but which could be renewed.
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), which empowers the President 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 this was not met. More than a week after the announcement of their removal, only the DG’s letter of disengagement has been delivered last Friday. It can only happen in Nigeria”.
Meanwhile, presidency sources said that Abba Kyari’s decision to place his cousin in charge of over N6.5 trillion pension fund is not unconnected with 2019 in particular.
“The truth is that the APC could not hold its earlier announced Convention, its NEC and National Caucus meetings due to paucity of funds. The party headquarters is now a ghost of itself. There is hunger since staff salaries are not paid because the governors are no ready to support the party financially. 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 seldom consulted.
“So, with heavy funders like the governors, Senator Bola Tinubu, among others out of the picture, the Villa cabals are seeking alternative sources to build election war chest, hence the desperation to take hold of PenCom and other juicy agencies.
“These are without the President’s blessing. In fact, because of the President’s health challenges and age, the various cabals believe that he may not re-contest, hence they are desperately building war chests ahead of time. That was why Abba 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 be politically suicidal going into 2019”.
Meanwhile, Aliyu Dikko’s choice is the real reason for the uproar in the pension as it is said to be in multiple breaches of PRA 2014.
He is currently the Chairman of Premium Pension, a Pension Fund Administrator (PFA) and is alleged to hold large shares, hence not qualified to be appointed as PenCom DG under Section 19 (5) of the PRA 2014.
Even worse, Dikko hails from Kaduna State, North West, while Section 21(2) of PRA 2014 provides that “In the event of a vacancy, the President shall appoint a replacement from the geo-political zone of the immediate past member that vacated office to complete the remaining tenure”.
So, Aliyu Dikko’s nomination is a clear lawlessness that is most unlikely to scale Senate’s confirmation.
The dilemma on how to push Dikko’s choice or to change him was at the root of the delay in issuing the removed management the letters of disengagement.
They were also said to have considered replacing Dikko’s name with that of the embattled erstwhile Chairman of the Police Pension Reform Task Force, Abdulrasheed Maina whom they said had the heart to effect ‘instructions’.
Maina has been having a running battle with anti-graft and security agencies over alleged pension fraud running into hundreds of billions of naira.
Kyari ordered on Friday afternoon that the letter removing the outgoing DG be served unfailingly at PenCom. The letter eventually arrived at 5.45pm by which time the DG had left home.
However, a source at the SGF’s Office, who said the letter was deliberately dated 20th April 2017 (Thursday), revealed that Abba Kyari had perfected plans to override the Senate as the content of the letter relied on Section 171 of the 1999 Constitution rather than the relevant Sections of the PRA 2014.
He said: “This will serve two purposes. One, because the mode of removal and replacement of the PenCom DG and Commissioners do not comply with the law establishing PenCom, the cabal cannot rely on PRA 2014. Two, is to make Senate confirmation of the appointees as provided by PRA 2014 unnecessary. It is in line with recent argument that going by Section 171, appointments like that of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) do not need Senate’s confirmation, which matter is in court.
“That was what actually informed the DSS invasion. It was essential to harass staff, intimidate and install Dikko by hook or crook. It is a kind of, ‘lets get in first and we see how we hold fort’.
“But assuming they succeed in overriding or circumventing the Senate’s confirmation, what of Section 21(2), which says you must pick the successor of anyone removed before the expiration of tenure from that person’s geopolitical zone? What of the issue of Section 19(5), which guards against conflict of interest?”
Meanwhile, a staff at PenCom said it was “shear and illogical propaganda to say that the DG refused to hand over when they did not serve her a disengagement letter”.
“So, handover to who and on what strength?”, she queried.
“Likewise, justifying the DSS siege on the grounds of supposedly preventing the outgoing management from backdating documents sounds funny. Which documents? And to say that she is in hiding is also the most irresponsible thing to do.” What for? At least, my neighbour said she saw her in church today.
“Besides, she called and addressed staff and management at a valedictory meeting on Tuesday, immediately after the Easter, to formally announce her departure and caution against any strike of civil disobedience as reported in the media”, he added.
It will also be recalled that pension stakeholders have been 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, uncertainty, and looting in the pension industry.