The National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) has passed a vote of confidence on Aisha Dahir-Umar, the director-general and chief executive officer of the National Pension Commission (PenCom).
Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, the NANS Senate President, Attah Felix Nnalue admitted that the union’s recent Freedom of Information (FOI) letter on the alleged annual expenditure of N14 billion on personnel costs was not only misleading but wasn’t backed by any fact.
The union had threatened to stage daily mass protests against PenCom should the pension regulator fail to furnish it with the details demanded in the FOI.
Nnalue, however, said that after carefully reviewing its allegations against PenCom, NANS found that there was a “marked difference between staff cost and staff salary” with the former consisting of training allowances, staff exit benefit scheme, and employers’ pension contribution “as opposed to salaries that are fixed and eared monthly”.
He blamed the misconception on the “lack of inattentiveness that played out at the National Assembly” when the lawmakers recently invited officials of PenCom to seek clarification on issues as part of their oversight functions.
Nnalue said the union regretted that since the events that transpired at the National Assembly few weeks ago, both the traditional and social media, either out of mischief or lack of understanding of the issue, have been misrepresenting facts with the intention to portray Dahir-Umar in bad light.
The NANS senate president who described the PenCom boss as a pacesetter, said it carried out an independent findings and came to the conclusion that the allegation of wasteful spending is in many parts misleading, untrue, unverified, therefore, should be ignored.”
He further called on relevant stakeholders to focus on steps taken by the “Dahir Umar-led PenCom to safeguard contributors’ funds rather than on inanity.”
“It is imperative to state that at the inception of the PenCom over 18 years ago, the commission has operated, especially under the present DG, an employee compensation policy that favourably compares to comparator government bodies in the financial services sector, such as the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
“Furthermore, the NANS is aware that the Presidential Committee on the Consolidation of Emoluments in the Public Sector headed by the late Chief Ernest Shonekan, former Head of the Interim National Government, made a number of recommendations which guided the PenCom Board in its compensation review exercises. One of the recommendations is that the pay structure of self-funded agencies should be benchmarked with their private sector comparators so as to ensure relativity in such agencies and attract and retain high-calibre professionals.”
Speaking on Dahir-Umar’s giant strides as PenCom CEO, Nnalue said she supervised the growth of the pension assets from N6.42 trillion in 2017 to N14.3 trillion as at July 2022.
“She introduced the Multi-Fund Structure of investment of pension fund assets to address the investment appetite and preference of contributors as well as their age profile.
“Dahir-Umar also approved a structured reduction of fees on Net Asset Value of pension fund assets.
“The PenCom boss introduced the Micro Pension Plan for the participation of informal sector workers in the Contributory Pension Scheme. The Micro Pension Plan was formally launched by Mr. President on 28 March, 2019.
“She developed the Enhanced Contributor Registration System (ECRS) to clean and enhance the integrity of the pension industry database.
“She introduced the RSA Transfer Window to enable contributors change their PFAs at least once in a year.
“She instituted a periodic Pension Enhancement programme every three years, where the retirees’ monthly pensions are enhanced based on the performance of their RSAs.
“Dahir-Umar aslo automated the Annual Enrolment Exercise for FGN retirees to remove the inconvenience of the physical process of the exercise.
” Recently, she issued the Guidelines for Access to a Percentage of RSA balance towards payment of Equity Contribution for residential mortgage.
“She has strengthened the minimum capital base of PFAs from N1billion to N5billion for better service delivery to contributors.
” She facilitated the payment of outstanding accrued pension rights of FGN retirees, which drastically shortened the waiting period for accessing their retirement benefits,” the NANS leader noted.
The students therefore, insisted that they would not allow themselves “to be swayed by a malicious narrative against a tested and patriotic woman that has dedicated her life to the service of our dear nation.”
“We are against corruption and we are committed to advocating and promoting good governance at all levels, as such we will never support corrupt elements in government. But where there is a clear misinformation about happenings, we owe ourselves and the society a duty to get to the bottom of the matter in order to get the facts and set the records straight.
“It is due to some of the reasons enumerated above that NANS as a body of all Nigerian Students decided to pass a vote of confidence on the leadership of Mrs Aisha Dahir Umar, the Director General of the National Pension Commission (PenCom) for her exemplary leadership and track record of performance.”