Pension Reform Advocacy Group Petitions EFCC Over Governance Issues At PENCOM

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Thursday, October 18, 2018   060037PM  / By Otto AbasiEkong, Proshare WebTV 

 

Some months back, a group of concerned staff members of one of the key regulators in the Nigerian financial space, the National Pension Commission (PenCom) wrote the Anti-graft agency, the Economic Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), over some  developments in the regulatory body.

 

In the petition letter dated June 12, 2018 and signed by Isyaku Abduralman under the aegis of the ‘Pension Reform Advocacy Group’ ,  it outlined five (5) allegations of governance and financial impropriety against the Acting Director-General of PENCOM. 

 

The Pension Reform Act 2004 established the National Pension Commission (PenCom) as the body to regulate, supervise and ensure the effective administration of pension matters in Nigeria; currently an N8 trillion industry.

 

 

Below is the full text of the petition letter and the issues raised:

 

12 June 2018 

 

The Acting Executive Chairman

Economic & Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) 

New Head Office Complex Jabi Abuja 

 

We, the concerned and aggrieved staff of the National Pension Commission (PENCOM), are writing to inform and brief the Commission (EFCC) about  the state of the PENCOM where we all work and contribute our quota to nation building, progress and development of our fatherland. You would recall, Sir, that there was a change of management of the Commission in 2017 where the PenCom Exco was removed and required to hand over to the most Senior Staff  Member of the Commission. We are at a loss as how the person of Mrs. Aisha Dahiru-Umar was saddled with the responsibility of leading the Commission in Acting Capacity since she ought to have retired since December 2016. Furthermore, she has spent all her time in the Commission in the facility management and lately in the CSR Department due to her severely limited intellect and as such lacks the regulatory competence required to head the Commission. 

 

It is without doubt that the two previous Excos made remarkable progress in institutionalizing the Commission’s long term developmental strategy, especially in the core areas of daily operations, infrastructure and welfare enhancement of all staff. It was clear to all and sundry that Pencom was being directed to a glorious path evidenced by consistent factual milestones. 

 

Unfortunately, however, upon the resumption of duty of Aisha Umar, Pencom entered into a phase of tragic demise. We have, in the last one year, witnessed brazen financial recklessness, gross incompetence, the most extreme form of nepotism and mismanagement of material and human resources. These ills have essentially engendered Staff disillusionment and a general feeling of helplessness and despondency. This is truly unfortunate Sir. 

 

A chronicle of the fraud and insider dealings going on in the Commission shall follow in turn Sir.

 

Contract Scams and Demands for Kickbacks 

There is large scale financial impropriety and graft going on in the Commission at present. Contractors have been inundated with constant request for kickbacks from Aisha Umar during contract negotiations (Evidence Available), without which the said contracts are diverted and given to another company that is ‘willing to do business’. Legitimate contractors who have since fulfilled their deliverables are being owed and are told to come for “discussions” otherwise they will not be paid. 

 

Most reprehensible is the malicious illegal stalling of the Pension Administration Project (PAS) for the simple reason that the American Company who have emerged the preferred bidders are not willing to engage in talks for kickbacks. Sir, contrary to the falsehood that is being peddled by her, we would like to bring it to your attention that the PAS project had been ongoing for over a year and the Commission has expended a lot of resources to document the steps required to fully automate its regulatory activities. The procurement process commenced with the issuance of a Request For Proposal (RFP) and culminated in the issuance of a no objection from the Bureau of Public Procurement. We gathered that the no objection arrived in the Commission shortly before the management change. Since then, instead of Aisha Umar to move it forward, she and her evil cohorts have been trying to get the BPP to cancel the contract. Following a letter drafted by Sani Mohammed, the Commission Secretary/Legal Adviser (CSLA), the BPP in rejecting the request to cancel the contract, faulted the points raised by Mohammed Sani as lacking in legal merit reprimanded the Commission with a stern warning to immediately finalize the procurement process. This technology ought to have been installed since last year, without which the Micro-Pension initiative, a major milestone of the administration cannot take off. 

 

A sinister group of Ekanem Aikhomu, Datti Mohammed, Sani Mohammed also unilaterally awarded contracts to whom they please and back it up with bogus evaluations which they instruct Mr. Bako Mohammed, a long time criminal associate of Aisha Dahir Umar, to process. Mr. Bako Mohammed who has been undergoing investigations for rent seeking activities, was returned to procurement to facilitate Aisha’s nefarious transactions. 

 

Cases abound with proof of companies and contractors who were and are still unduly engaged without recourse to proper procurement and bidding processes. For instance, an actuary firm, RBA Limited who has close ties to Ekanem Aikhomu was paid N60 Million for nebulous services without due process being followed. This is in contravention of all procurement laws and due process. This group of individuals have continued to help themselves in a most wanton manner to the coffers of the Commission and have subjected those against their activities to frequent changes of their departments as a way of subjugating them so that they will not expose their clandestine activities. They reward the faithful with incessant trips out of the country sham “overseas training” to keep them loyal. 

 

We appeal that a thorough investigation be carried out to unravel this reprehensible activity and secure the immediate return of all monies to the Commission as leaving this unchecked is antithetical to the anti-corruption stance of this noble administration. The ‘Kickback regime’ style now in Pencom which was NEVER the case essentially renders nugatory the efforts of our indefatigable President in curbing the menace of corruption in our body polity.

 

Media Scams 

Frequent singing off of huge public funds in the name of media and sensitization programmes, a large chunk which is usually pocketed by the Aisha Umar and two of her cronies; Mr. Peter Aghahowa,who is currently the head of Communications in Pencom and Mr. Tunde Philips who is the South West Regional Head, based in Lagos is now the order of the day. The office of the DG has a statutory approval limit of N2.5M, and Aisha Umar has continued to squander funds by signing multiple payment vouchers daily just under the capped limit thereby providing a slush fund for embezzlement by her and her cronies. Part of these funds are used to lobby various stakeholders in furtherance of her desperation to be confirmed as substantive DG. She has also used part of these funds to purchase two brand new 2018 fully loaded Lexus Jeep cars. This transaction was facilitated by Tunde Phillips who, again, with funds siphoned from “media enlightenment” arranged a door to door trucking delivery from Lagos to her residence in Stallion Court, Wuse 2, Abuja. 

 

A cursory look at the books will reveal this fact. We do not believe in hearsays neither do we engage in wishful thinking, the facts are there. An investigation into the media and sensitization programmes in the Commission and the funds disbursed in the past year under the subhead will reveal dirty deals perpetrated by Aisha Umar in furtherance of her personal aggrandizement and a desperate bid to secure a confirmation as substantive Director General.

 

Reckless Diversion of Public Funds 

There is rather incestuous utilization of Government funds to settle the Acting DG’s personal expenses. Again, a cursory look into the TSA account of the Commission will reveal diversion of Government funds into personal business of Mrs. Umar under various guises. A most perfidious phenomenon on this score is the quest for collection of humongous travel allowances for seminars, courses, sensitization programmes and other ‘events’. She collects all the monies for the aforementioned – local and international – without making an appearance in any of them. This can be verified from local and international airlines and the events themselves. She is ALWAYS represented at functions for fear of her ignorance of the entire pension reform being exposed. She studiously avoids engaging with the public and yet she collects allowances for such appearances. 

 

This is a gross violation of public service rules and regulations. Sadly, while President Buhari’s administration has made tremendous strides in cutting cost and entrenching improved service delivery, the reverse has been happening in Pencom for the past one year. We have evidence of phantom contract engagements which huge public funds have been appropriated for. It is disheartening that such level of graft is going unchecked and Aisha Umar has been boasting that she has ‘settled’ very important people and no one can investigate her. These are verifiable facts and we urge you to correct this wicked stance by conducting a full scale investigation so that Pencom can be cleansed, returned to its former glory and further be strengthened to achieve its laudable mandate. To allow the continuation of these crimes unchecked would send the wrong signals to the contributors and retirees alike whose interest we seek to preserve and protect.

 

300% Increase in The Terminal Benefits Of General Manager 

Aisha Dahir-Umar together with some General Managers have plunged the Commission into financial abyss by recommending and unilaterally appropriating a salary increase for all cardres of staff to gain support for the clueless and incompetent leadership of Aisha Dahir-Umar. What the staff are just finding out however is that she surreptitiously embarked on a 300% increase in the terminal benefits of GMs. Terminal benefits, as we are all aware, are paid at the end of service of a public servant. However, right now in Pencom under the machinations of Aisha Dahir-Umar, the GMs have started paying themselves upfront and enjoying terminal benefis while they are still receiving salaries!!

 

This is a gross violation of public service rules and all known rules of engagement. The question is who approved the humongous package? At what point was the approval obtained? And by whom? Where are the supporting documents? It is quite obvious that the sinister group made up of Ekanem Aikhomu, Datti Mohammed, Sani Muhammad and Aisha Dahir-Umar have pushed for this unhealthy increase. With the active connivance of Sani Muhammed, the Commission Secretary and Legal Adviser who has been falsifying memos to mislead the Office of the SGF, Aisha Dahir Umar pulled off this heist to the detriment of the Commission. As a result, the Commission’s financial health is now at grave risk, staff are unable to pursue their regulatory activities because basic supplies like photocopying paper and ink cannot be provided as funds have been diverted by Aisha Dahir-Umar. As we write, terminal benefits payments are being disbursed in instalments so they would have received all illegally appropriated funds in the event of their eventual sack. We cannot continue like this if we hope to build a formidable system and process to drive the change we so desire. 

 

It is worthy to note that the level of ineptitude and incompetence displayed in her absolute lack of capacity to manage a blue chip organization like Pencom is responsible for the numerous major policy somersaults in the Commission today. For example, the Commission has witnessed more than three reshufflement exercises in less than one year in order to “silence” perceived dissenting voices. In addition, she has been engaged in running battle with the management of the Creche. We understand that she is bitter at the transformation of the Creche which was a cesspool when it was under her watch and wants to shut it down. It took the intervention of a high ranking official in the Presidency for her to pay the backlog owed. She was overheard furiously exclaiming that the high ranking official cannot command her and only paid a portion of the amount owed. She issued a termination letter to the Creche providers and shortly afterwards (no doubt following outcry by staff) hurriedly retrieved it and issued another letter of appointment but still wickedly slashing their engagement fees. 

 

She has recklessly promoted staff to the General Manager cadre, bringing the number to seventeen (17!) from 10 last year. These General Managers, some of whose job functions are unclear (a GM is heading a protocol unit hitherto manned by a staff seven notches below the grade of a GM) and whose wages and allowances are now exceeding the emoluments of the highest paying multinational companies in the country. The question Sir, is what hope do we as employees have for career progression if the General Managers are seeking to perpetuate themselves in office? According to the staff policy, GMs are promoted based on availability of space and funds and several existing GMs ought to have retired before any promotion was done, but this was ignored as Aisha Umar claims to be above all rules and regulations.

 

Resumption of Newly Employed Staff 

Last but not the least, Sir, is the clandestine recruitment that is being carried out by Aisha Dahir-Umar to supplant 43 persons who had been issued letters of employment since March 2017 for resumption in May/June 2017. These people were verbally directed by Mrs. H, Oniyangi not to resume work on the instructions of Aisha Dahir-Umar. No reasons were given to these 43 staff, most of whom had resigned from their previous employment and are now unemployed as a result of the Aisha Umar’s reluctance to absorb them despite appeals from all and sundry. 

 

Upon their several petitions to the Office of the SGF, again, as is in consonance with her criminal character, she has lied copiously to the SGF, citing abnormalities and need for time to provide requisite infrastructure. An enquiring mind should ask: what infrastructure is required for a new staff besides a desk, chair and a computer? Provisions were already in process for this in March 2017, hence their resumption in two batches of May and June. What abnormality? There were requisite approvals by EXCO based on the memoranda from both finance and HR (Sani Muhammed is in custody of the excerpts and MUST produce them from where he has been directed to hide them by Aisha Dahir Umar) and following oral and written interviews, successful candidates were forwarded to the Federal Character Commission for a no objection. This was granted and it was based on this that the employment letters were issued by Mrs. Oniyangi. 

 

We have since discovered that the real reason for preventing the resumption of staff is because a secret employment is being undertaken by Aisha Dahir-Umar to swap the 43 positions with her own candidates. Sources claim that in her greedy fraudulent quest for money, she is charging each candidate N2M per slot! We are all aware of the grave implications this would have on the society at large. These newly employed young men and women have families who depend on them and have been made to remain in limbo for the past 13 months. We believe strongly that the candidates have the right to resume work having been issued  valid letters of employment and shoul not be subjected to the inordinate greed and criminality of Aisha Umar. 

 

Notwithstanding the foregoing; the illegality of her position is glaring. In accordance with the Commission’s approved staff policy, she ought to have retired from the Commission since December 2016. She, therefore, could not have been the most senior person in the Commission as at April 2017 following the disengagement of the EXCO. Flowing from this, she has no legal basis to occupy the seat, award contracts, employ new staff and increase allowances and pay herself double salaries – salary of a DG and a GM. This may well be the basis for brazen impunity in siphoning public funds – there is no career to protect. 

 

We implore the Commission (EFCC) to urgently intervene and thoroughly investigate the financial frauds being perpetrated by Aisha Umar and her cohorts who are bent on destroying the gains of Pension Reform over the past decade. Thank you.

 

Isyaku Abduralman

For: Pension Reform Advocacy Group

 

 

 Proshare Nigeria Pvt. Ltd.

 

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