Senate Minority Leader Enyinnaya Abaribe has kicked against the nomination of Aisha Umar (North East) as Director General of the National Pension Commission (PENCOM).
President Muhammadu Buhari had in a letter urged the Senate to confirm the nomination of Oyindasola Oni as Chairman and Aisha Umar the DG of PENCOM Board respectively.
President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, read the letter on the floor of the Senate during plenary.
Abaribe however raised a point of order following the reading of the letter by Lawan.
The Abia South Senator insisted that the nomination of a candidate from the Northeast to replace the former Director-General (DG) of PENCOM, Mrs. Chinelo Anohu-Amazu from Southeast was in breach of the Act establishing PENCOM.
He noted the National Pension Commission Act 2014 provided that “in the event of a vacancy, the President shall appoint replacement from the geo-political zone of the immediate past member that vacated office to complete the remaining tenure.”
He maintained the replacement for Mrs Anohu-Amazu must come from the South East.
Abaribe said: “I recall that the tenure of the incumbent was truncated therefore, the new letter from the President that has now moved the Chairman of the Commission to another zone may not be correct because it is against the law setting up the National Pension Commission.
“Before you send it to the appropriate committee tomorrow, I wish to draw the attention of the committee to it.”
Lawan, in his response, said: “That is for me to interpret because I interpret the laws here.
“If there is any petition to that effect it should be sent to the committee.”
But an expert and senior official in the pension industry countered Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe’s submission, stating that the nomination is back up by the PRA 2014.
The expert, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that in furtherance to Section 20 (1) and Section 21 (1) and (2) of the Act, Section 106(4) of the PRA 2014 provides that notwithstanding section 19(2)(a) and 26(2)&(4) of the Act, where a Board of the Commission is yet to be reconstituted after six months of the dissolution of the last Board, the President of the Federal Republic may appoint fit and proper persons with pension cognate experience to constitute the Board at the first instance, subject to confirmation by the Senate.
Also, Section 171 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) vests in Mr. President the power to appoint persons to hold or act in certain offices and to remove such persons.
These offices include heads of all Federal Government extra-ministerial departments, howsoever designated.
He stated that the Act did not define what constitutes ‘vacancy’, a situation that created ambiguity as to the exact occasion when Section 21(2) of the PRA 2014 becomes operational.