I read with a lot of disappointment, Mohammed Haruna’s recent column piece entitled “Between Senator Anyim and Hon. Bala”, which was published in the Daily Trust and The Nation newspapers of September 11, 2013.
Mohammed accused Anyim of tribalism, alleging the Pension Reform (Amendment) Bill 2013 is also aimed at lowering the bar on years of experience qualification for the Director-Generalship of the National Pension Commission, PenCom, from 20 years to 15 years to pave way for the appointment of the current Acting Director-General, DG, Mrs Chinelo Anohu-Amazu as the head of PenCom.
To start with, I wonder how Mohammed is so sure the woman in question is penned down for confirmation as DG of PenCom. It saddens me when serious national issues, including matters that affect pensioners’ welfare are reduced to ethno-religious politics. Of all the great proposals in that Bill, none else captured his attention.
And if Mohammed would argue that graduates of 15 years standing are unqualified to handle just an agency of government, even though he admits, in the case of Anohu-Amazu, that she “is a smart lawyer”, then why do we need to send our children to school when we are never willing to yield the system to them. Count me out of this gerontocracy, a system held hostage by old men and women who have “eaten”, but prefer to stay put to perpetrate corruption and impunity in the system.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, no doubt, had his own excesses in office, but Pension Reform Act 2004 remains one of the greatest legacies of his regime and which President Jonathan is working to take the pension system to greater heights and bring it in tandem with international best practices. One of the provisions that does not stand the test of modernity is the 20 years requirement for the headship of PenCom.
The only reason that has been adduced is that 20 years of experience would ensure proper administration of the pension system. But the irony in this line of thought is that as can be seen in the massive corruption in the old pension system, donkey years of experience do not translate to competence and integrity. From Abdulrasheed Maina, to Atiku Kigo, and John Yakubu, all the people mentioned in the N273 billion scam in the Police Pension Office had over 20 years experience.
Curiously, such crazy years of experience are not prescribed for the headship of most regulatory agencies in Nigeria’s financial services sector, including those that handle far greater responsibilities and funds than the PENCOM.
The Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, is the engine room of Nigeria’s economy and financial sector, managing an external reserves, which stood at USD48.76 billion or N75.57 trillion as at last April. Its assets and liabilities stand at N14, 041,867,399 trillion as at June. The CBN licenses and regulates the N24.58 trillion strong banking/financial sector. Yet, the CBN Act 2007 only stipulates that: “The Governor and Deputy-Governors shall be persons of recognised financial experience…”.
The Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS, assesses, collects, and accounts for taxes accruable to the Federal Government. It raked in about N5 trillion in 2012 alone. Yet the FIRS (Establishment) Act 2007 only provides that the “Executive Chairman shall have cognate experience and skills in accountancy, economic, taxation, and related fields”.
The Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation, NDIC, insures all the deposit liabilities of Nigerian banks and other deposit-taking institutions in Nigeria which is over N24.58 trillion. The law does not mention years of experience. Meanwhile, funds under PenCom stood at N3.60 trillion as at May 2013.
Only 10 years cognate experience is needed for the Director-Generalship of the Corporate Affairs Commission and 15 years for those of the Security and Exchange Commission the National Insurance Commission, NAICOM.
The 40 years prescribed by the Constitution for the Presidency of Nigeria is not even up to 20 years if you take away about 24 years from birth to completion of national service.
Indeed, modern economies are yielding more space to digital minds, professionalism, creativity, and competence.
I recall all the noise Senator John McCain made about his age and experience. But Americans needed creativity and competence to revive their economy. They chose Obama who is of Kenya origin over McCain, a full-blooded and “well experienced” American. Here we are, basking in tribalism and gerontocracy. Will we ever learn a thing?
Let me conclude by emphasising that as a pensioner, I do not care if an Igbo or Igala or young man/woman pays my pension. All I care about is to have my pension regularly. I am sure this too should matter to members of the National Assembly.
Alhaji Rabiu Usman, a pensioner, wrote from Birnin Kebbi, Kebi State