By Taiye Agbaje
Abuja – Mr Yakubu Dogara, Speaker of the House of Representatives, House Leader, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila and other members on Thursday disagreed over a motion to investigate alleged violation of PenCOM Act by the Federal Government.
The disagreement followed a motion, under matters of urgent public importance, by Rep Benjamin Wayo (APC-Benue) at the plenary in Abuja.
Wayo had moved a motion titled: ‘Motion to Investigate the Violation of PenCOM Act, Illegal and Unlawful Appointments, and Provisions and Use of Public Funds’, at the plenary.
Wayo, who represents Kwande/Ushongo Federal Constituency, noted that in April 2017, the federal government announced the constitution of the board of the National Pension Commission (PenCOM).
According to him, the composition was made up of a chairman, Director General and four members as executive commissioners.
He, however, said that 19 months after the announcement, the board members were yet to assume office.
“As a statutory agency, the appointment of the board members is made subject to the confirmation of the senate, upon request from the President to that effect, but which request has up till now not been made by the President.
“The House is aware that PenCOM, as established under the Pension Reform Act of 2004, is a statutory agency that regulates, supervises and ensures the effective administration of pension matters in Nigeria, which necessarily requires a board to be put in place at all material times.
“The House notes that PenCOM’s Net Asset Value (NAV) of the contributory pension fund as at Oct. 28 stands at N8.779 trillion, with the number of contributors also grown to 8.90 million, to date.
“The House is concerned that in the absence of a proper structure put in place i.e. the commission’s board, the lot of N8.779 trillion is left in the care of an Acting Director General,” he said.
The lawmaker stated that it was dangerous and too risky to have a treasury of N9 trillion without proper custodian and regulators.
Wayo alleged that its acting Director General, Mrs Aisha Umar, had unilaterally without any backing of the law increased her terminal benefits and that of other senior staff by an outrageous 300 per cent.
He argued that Umar also jerked up the number of PenCOM General Managers from 10 to 17, allegedly in breach of extant laws governing the institution.
Wayo claimed that President Muhammadu Buhari was ill-advised into appointing an individual, who was the Managing Director of a pension company, as the Head of the Board, supposedly in contravention of a stipulation in the PenCOM Act.
According to him, the then Acting President Yemi Osinbajo rectified the matter and appointed someone else.
The lawmaker subsequently urged for a thorough investigation on the matter.
Rep Gabriel Onyenwife (APGA-Anambra) corroborated the notion that as a democratic system of governance, the strict adherence to the rule of law cannot be over-emphasised.
Onyenwife, who represents Ayamelum/Oyi Federal Constituency, also stressed that the PenCOM Act stipulates the constitution of a board for the running of the affairs of the pension office and any step in violation is an illegality.
He said any such act of illegalities should be deemed void and of no consequence.
However, in his submission, Rep Gbajabiamila (APC-Lagos), who disagreed with his colleagues on the motion, said Buhari had already done the right thing by sending the names of the appointees to the senate.
The lawmaker, who represents Surulere 1, said it was the senate that refused to confirm the appointees.
According to him, the law recognises presumption of regularity and in this light, it is a fact that the President had sent the said list to the senate and it is indeed the senate that has refused to consider and confirm the list.
Gbajabiamila, who said that the lawmakers must be ready to defend the nation, asked for the balance of equity.
“We can’t sit here and feign ignorance that Mr President has sent the list of his appointees to the senate.
“He has done what he is supposed to do by law. The senate has not confirmed them. So how do we say the President or PenCOM has committed an illegality?” he asked.
The lawmaker, who was visibly angry, said: “If anybody believes the President has not done what he is supposed to do here should bring evidence.”
The Speaker, Mr Dogara, intervened at the juncture, saying Gbajabiamila had misconstrued the sponsor of the motion.
“Rep Wayo did not say what you are trying to defend,” he said.
Gbajabiamila, however, stood his ground, demanding for any act of impropriety on the part of the presidency.
“I listened very well to what my colleagues said. He said the President and the Vice President were ill-advised.
“I am joining issue with Wayo,” he said.
The Speaker, who asked Wayo to do some clarifications, however discontinued any debate on the matter
He put the motion on a voice vote and the lawmakers unanimously adopted it.
The House, therefore, urged the federal government to abide by the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and PenCOM Act and remit the constituted PenCOM Board to the senate for confirmation within seven days.
It also set up an ad hoc committee to investigate the activities of PenCOM from April 2017 to date and report back to within four weeks for further legislative action. (NAN)