The House And The Effective Oversight Of Pension Fund Administration

The tasking issue of pension fund administration and its attendant
challenges has been on the front burner of legislative discourse and deliberation for quite some time as the National Assembly has taken
proactive steps to settle those burning issues once and for all through the instrumentality of legislation, resolutions and over sighting of the vast pension regime. The Pension Reform Act of 2014 went a long way in addressing the bureaucratic and institutional anomalies in the sector with the strengthening of the Nigeria Pensions Commission (PENCOM) as well as the delineation of its functions and duties in relation to other industry stakeholders like the Pension Transition Arrangement Directorate (PTAD), the Pension Fund Managers, the Nigeria Stock Exchange, the Central Bank of Nigeria etc. Indeed the Chairman of the House Committee on Pensions, Hon Adamu Skekarau signaled the determination of the National Assembly in ensuring that the pensioners are adequately taken care of in the administration of pension funds and the prompt payment of all outstanding pension arrears.
He also dwelt on the performance of PENCOM, the pension industry regulator: ‘The way pensions funds are managed in Nigeria has witnessed tremendous transformation with the passage of the Pension Reform Act of 2014. With N6.2 trillion pension funds, you need to have professionalism, transparency and a high degree of accountability in the pension fund administration and I must state that PENCOM has shown a high degree of professionalism in 12 years of managing the Contributory Pensions Scheme (CPS) as there has been a near zero record of fraud so far’. However the issue of outstanding pension payments to thousands of pensioners in the civil service, armed forces, police force and other paramilitaries has been of particular concern to the House Committee and at various meetings with Nigerian Union of Pensioners (NUP), the Pension Fund Operators Association of Nigeria (PENOP), etc, a lot of barnstorming has been undertaken in order to address this thorny issue. The Pension Transition Arrangement Directorate under the headship of Mrs Sharon Ikeazor, detailed with the verification of pensioners throughout the country has carried out several pension audits and verification exercises nationwide and during their 2016 budget defence, the allocation of funds for the verification exercise has been a major sticking point with the House Committee insisting on proper accounting for the funds earlier appropriated for previous exercises. Hon Skekarau while stressing the absolute necessity of the verification exercise also noted that they must be conducted holistically and transparently in compliance with industry best
practices. He also commented on the outstanding pension liabilities particularly as it related to retired civil servants and police officers who have been owed over 2 years arrears of pension payments. According to a visibly concerned Hon Shekarau: ‘We need to take decisive steps to clear the outstanding payments to the retired police officers and other civil servants as their backlog of payments are more severe than other category of pensioners. Anytime I see them come here with their members I feel particularly sad about their condition.
Owning public officers that have served this country with dedication and patriotism for years is unfortunate and all hands should be on deck to correct this glaring anomaly. Other issues that have taken up the time of the pension committee relates to the threat to the continuation of the contributory pension scheme by the non-remittance of workers contributions by employers, the need to invest pension funds for infrastructural development, the EFCC investigation into pension funds allegedly trapped in insurance companies accounts, a Bill to Establish the Chartered Institute of Pension Practioners of Nigeria and the National Intelligence Agency Pension Board, the reconstitution of the management of the Pension Transition Arrangement Department amongst others.
Regarding the non-contribution of employers to the contributory pension scheme, the committee chairman invited various stakeholders like the NUP president, Dr Abel Afolayan, the representatives of PENOP and the Nigerian Employers Consultative
Association to air their views and at the end of deliberations, it was agreed that all relevant stakeholders, particularly the employers of labour, should take concerted efforts to remit all outstanding employees dues to the contributory pension scheme (CPS).
As for the investment of pension funds in infrastructural development, the House committee after taking a cross-section of viewpoints, adopted a more cautious approach that would involve proper identification of key infrastructural projects that would adequately return the amount of pension funds so invested. Regarding the ongoing EFCC investigation into pension funds trapped in various insurance and financial institutions, Hon Adamu Shekarau welcomed the development as it was unconscionable that the hard earned monies of pensioners would be held back and unaccounted for by the large financial institutions while tens of thousands of pensioners continue to wallow in penury and abject poverty. Several insurance companies like AIICO, Custodian Insurance etc testified that they were in custody of pensioners funds, the former stating that as at July 2015, it had pension assets of 1.5 billion naira and moving forward, Hon Adamu Shekarau directed further meetings between PTAD, the insurance companies concerned and the committee in order to facilitate the timely transfer of the trapped pension funds to PTAD accounts. On the recent reconstitution of PTAD management which saw the removal of the former DG, Mrs Mayshak and other erstwhile directors and her replacement with the present Executive Secretary, Ms Sharon Ikeazor, those directors that were affected by the management shakeup brought a petition before the House Committee alleging irregular termination of employment, noncompliance with due process, lack of fair hearing, intimidation and defamation of character by the incumbent PTAD management. The PTAD executive secretary represented by Mr Suleiman Shelleng, a PTAD director insisted that due process was allowed in their termination, citing civil service rules that invalidated recruitment of staff over the age of 50 which was the age that the former directors had allegedly attained before entry into PTAD. Hon
Adamu Shekarau after contributions from the petitioners, the PTAD management and House committee members adjourned in order that the committee be furnished with other relevant information, documents, publications, official circulars and regulations by the parties concerned to assist it in arriving at a fair, accurate and unbiased report/conclusion on the petition.

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