The focus of this committee was specific to pension in public enterprises but Obasanjo felt that the entire pension scheme in Nigeria needed a similar overhaul. This was what led to the establishment of a National Taskforce Team on Pension Reforms that retained Adeola as chairman. He agreed to take the assignment on two conditions: One, he would work with his personal money without taking anything from government, and throughout the life of the two committees, he stuck by that rule. And it must have cost him a lot because the second committee travelled to several South American countries like Mexico, Chile, Argentina etc. where they spent considerable time studying their pension systems and he foot his own bills.
It is even all the more remarkable that the president only recently signed into law the Pension Reform 2014 Act to consolidate the gains of the sector and address some of the observed lapses in the implementation of the previous Act. The expectation is that the new legislation will help to enhance the protection of pension funds and assets and strengthen the regulatory and enforcement capacity of PenCom. It is also expected that the Pension funds will become a catalyst for the development of our country, especially in the area of critical infrastructure. But first, let us examine the compelling features of the Pension Reform Act 2014.
Unlike the repealed legislation which stipulated a minimum of five staff, a private firm with up to three employees is now subject to the scheme while an employee who retires before the age of 50 can also now withdraw 25 per cent of entitlements four months after retirement rather than wait for six months as it obtained in the past. This will delight Edo State Governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, a former NLC President who out of concern for the plights of pensioners had thrown his weight behind the CPS but has nonetheless consistently expressed misgivings about this particular issue.
For me the real issue is not even about her nomination as DG but rather that the National Assembly did not amend the Act in such a manner as to make the occupier an Executive Chairman like that of other regulatory bodies: CBN, NERC, NCC etc. That is the only way to insulate the office from partisan politics which is the global best practice. And it is the same reason that informed having executive chairman head such institutions like EFCC, INEC etc. Incidentally, I understand that is what was in the original draft legislation before the National Assembly in their wisdom decided to change it. Yet with the way things are today, PenCom has a DG and a board chairman who, in the current circumstance happens to be Alhaji Adamu Muazu, the national chairman of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)!
Another issue is the fact that given the critical stakeholders involved in the CPS (workers in the private sector and those in the federal, states and local governments for the public sector), PenCom cannot be run like the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) that has for all practical purposes become a slush fund for the federal government. By virtue of the pension contributions, it is a federation project so the federal government can simply not do as it wishes with the funds. I understand for instance that Lagos remains the most compliant of the law and a model state for PenCom with regards to the administration of the scheme. That then means that the federal government has to take such important stakeholders along in any decision on the deployment of the pension funds for developmental purposes.