PENCOM appointments cause uproar in Senate
• As lawmakers condemn abuse of federal character principle
Fresh appointments to fill vacancies in the National Pension Commission (PenCom) caused pandemonium among legislators on the floor of the Senate yesterday.
Senators across party divides were upset immediately Senate President Ahmad Lawan read a letter from President Muhammadu Buhari announcing Aisha Umar as Director-General of PenCom, insisting that the appointment, again, breached the Federal Character principle.
The letter also announced Oyindasola Oni as nominee for chairmanship of the commission. Senate Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe, protested against the appointment in which Umar from the North East was nominated to replace the former Director-General of PenCom, Mrs. Chinelo Anohu-Amazu from the South East.
He described the nomination as another flagrant breach of the Act establishing the agency. Abaribe pointed out that by the provisions of Section 20(1) and section 21(1) and (2) of the PenCom Act 2014, “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 that a replacement for Anohu-Amazu must come from the South East, saying, “I recall that the tenure of the incumbent was truncated. Therefore, the president’s letter that has moved the Chairman of the commission to another zone may not be correct because it is against the law setting up PenCom.
“Before you send it to the appropriate committee, I wish to draw attention to it.” Responding, Lawan rejected Abaribe’s point of order and observation, adding: “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.
Feelers from the upper legislative chamber indicated that lawmakers across party divides were bent on resisting Umar’s nomination as DG of the commission.
One of the lawmakers, who pleaded anonymity, disclosed that opposition to the contravention of the Act establishing PenCom cuts across the South East, South West and the North Central, adding, “We are set to meet tonight (yesterday) to harmonise our positions.”
He recalled that an earlier move by Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, to push for the nomination of Funsho Doherty from the South West as successor to Anohu-Amazu was frustrated.
“As Acting President, Osinbajo could not push it through. They threatened him with impeachment and used the lawmakers from the North to block him, citing provisions of the same Act,” he said.
He accused Lawan of being a stooge of the presidency in promoting the interest of a particular section of the country, which he noted, was contrary to the Federal Character Principle as entrenched in the nation’s constitution.