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Aisha Dahir-Umar’s path as Pencom’s DG

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Prior to the inception of the National Pension Commission (Pencom) in 2014, retirees across Federal Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs) had suffered a lot of bureacratic bottleneck in accessing their retirement benefits among other incentives by different governments.

The birthed of the Commission has brought respite to these ordeals encountered by retirees and families of the deceased while processing their entitlements as captured by the Pension Reform Act (PRA) 2014 and later PRA 2014  of the Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS).

Several leadership tenures have contributed to the transformation agenda of the Commission but the appointment of Hajia Aisha Dahir-Umar, who is witty and exceptional in all human endeavour as th DG of Pencom, cannot be easily swayed away without being putative that President Muhammadu Buhari has justified the vison behind the establishment of the organisation.

Her ardent contributions to the development of the pension sector made her to become the brainpower behind modern pension system in terms of regulations, managerial skills and repositioning the collective contributory scheme, thereby being accorded as the redeemer of the Commission.

In piloting the affairs of the Commission, she has implemented series of reforms to the pension industry, thereby boosting the value of Nigeria’s Pension Fund Assets globally.

The Commission has brought the informal sector into the Contributory Pension Scheme and launched the Micro Pension Plan (MPP) in March 2019. The MPP is a financial arrangement for pension services for self-employed persons and persons working in organisations with less than three employees. This gesture has enlarge the coast capturing more people into the scheme.

The Pencom DG has ensured that the Multi-fund structure for retirement savings accounts was implemented to align a contributor’s risk tolerance or appetite with his or her investment return expectations, based on work life cycle. The Commission each year conducts verification and enrolment exercise to obtain data and determine the accrued rights of federal government employees of the Treasury Funded MDA’s who will retire the following year to ease the access to their entitlements.

During her presentation on the industry’s 2021 report, she directed all the Pension Fund Administrators (PFAs) and the PFCs to resolve issues of all outstanding contributions.

She stated, that: “A notable outcome of the 2021 review of Licenced Pension Fund Operators records was the un-credited pension contributions domiciled in the Contribution Reconciliation Accounts of PFAs totalling N73.97bn.

“This amount represented contributions remitted by employers to the Pension Fund Custodians, but yet to be credited into the employees’ Retirement Savings Accounts due to the submission of incomplete or inaccurate schedules by employers.

“The Commission has given a six months timeline to the PFAs and PFC to follow up with the respective employers and ensure that the funds are appropriately transferred to the employees’ RSAs. Another notable outcome of the review was the uncredited contribution domiciled in the Transition Contributors Fund of PFAs totalling N19.52bn.

“The TCF account was created to keep pension funds of employees that failed to open RSAs in line with Section 4.1.1 of the guidelines for Transitional Contributions Fund.

“This requires a PFA chosen by employers whose employees have received salary for a minimum of six months, but failed to open a Retirement Savings Account, to create and maintain a TCF to manage the accumulated pension contributions pending when the employees opened Retirement Savings Accounts.

“The commission had equally mandated the PFAs to ensure resolution of all outstanding contributions in the TCF and forward monthly status reports.”

In ensuring an efficient service Dahir-Umar had emphasised that the industry remained focused on the resolution of the challenges of outstanding pension liabilities of the Federal Government under the CPS, expansion of coverage of the CPS to the informal sector and the sub-national governments and the diversification of pension fund investment.

Other focus areas included the drive to improve the quality of customer service delivery, enhancement of operational capacity of the regulator and operators’ workforce and the reinvigoration of the Commission’s public enlightenment and education initiatives.

“The Commission continued to regulate and supervise the Nigerian pension industry in a transparent and consultative manner through the instrumentality of on-site/special examinations, as well as off-site surveillance and analysis of all Pension Fund Operators.

“Specifically, the Commission monitored the activities of the Pension Fund Operators and conducted routine inspection of States’ Pension Bureaux to ascertain the level of implementation of the CPS, as well as the administration of the Defined Benefits Schemes in the states and the FCT.”

Regarding compliance and enforcement activities, she noted that the Commission continued to deploy various administrative and legal means to ensure that public and private sector institutions complied substantially with the provisions of the PRA 2014.

The revised regulation has clarified that retirees shall be allowed to access additional lump sum after the payment of an initial lump sum provided that there are additional inflows of funds into the RSA from the employers. However, the additional remittances shall first be applied to augment pension up to 50 per cent of the retiree’s final salary while the balance may be paid out as lump sum. Where the retiree’s pension is already up to 50 per cent of final salary, the retiree may choose to collect the entire additional remittances as a lump sum. Where the additional inflow into the RSA of a retiree on Retiree Life Annuity (RLA) is not up to N100,000 the amount shall be paid directly into the retiree’s bank account, subject to the Commission’s approval.

The DG in her unwearying effort has attracted several distinctive awards from Civil Society Organisations, Corporate bodies among others. Notable among them are Pro-democracy and anti-corruption group, Citizens Watch Advocacy Initiative (CWAI) which had bestowed the award of ‘The Most Outstanding and Distinguished Director-General of the Decade in Nigeria’ in 2022’.

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Tinubu, UNFPA launch 2024 SWOP report in Abuja

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President Bola Tinubu, alongside the Executive Director, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), on Wednesday, launched the 2024 regional State of World Population (SWOP) Report.

During the report launch, which has “Interwoven Lives, Threads of Hope: Ending Inequalities in Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights” as theme, Tinubu was represented by Prof. Ali Pate, the Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare.

Tinubu said “the theme comes with a narrative that reminds us that, globally we are composed of eight billion threads of hope, eight billion people interwoven with each of the threads being very unique.

“It is of note that Nigeria is among the eight identified countries to account for more than half of the projected increase in the world population up to 2050.

“The other countries are Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Pakistan, Philippines and the United Republic of Tanzania.”

He, however, said that meeting the aspirations and hopes of the unique members of these interwoven threads, who are mostly women, girls and young people, places a great demand and a sense of duty on government to keep that hope alive.

“In addition, for each of the threads to be recognised and be relevant, there is need to sustainably invest in generating quality, well-disaggregated data that will help in ensuring none of the threads is un-woven.

“The regional inauguration of the 2024 SWOP report in Nigeria and the presence of the UNFPA Executive Director is a reminder that Nigeria should prioritise data generation to provide the baseline and showcase progress toward the indicators of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“One of such data generation exercise is the conduct of the National Population and Housing Census within the 2020 round of Population and Housing census (2015-2024).

“We are consulting and working closely with the National Population Commission (NPC) to get this exercise right. We count on the support of UNFPA and other partners to get it right.”

In her address, Kanem said that the report presents important data that shows that in many countries, inequalities in such key measures as access to healthcare have been reduced.

She added that in other places, however, disparities are actually widening, and inequalities still persist everywhere.

“The report indicates that since global measurements have been kept, two countries – India and Nigeria – have recorded the highest number of maternal deaths.

“The remarkable reduction in the number of women worldwide dying in childbirth, 34 per cent since 2000 is largely attributable to progress in those two countries.

“Nigeria’s achievement in reducing maternal death rate by more than 11 per cent between 2013 and 2018 must be applauded.”

The UNFPA boss also said there had been advances in combatting Gender-Based Violence (GBV) and harmful practices in Nigeria, with a 10 per cent drop in number of adolescents subjected to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in the past decade.

She also said that politically, there had been progress as the proportion of women serving in parliaments more than doubled globally.

In spite of the gains, however, she said, progress was slowing, while by many measures it has stalled completely.

She noted that since 2016, the world made zero progress in saving women from preventable deaths during pregnancy and childbirth.

She explained that “one important reason, our report shows, is that we have not prioritised reaching those furthest behind.

“We see, for example, that barriers to healthcare fell fastest for women who are more affluent, educated and privileged.

“Many of these findings are the result of having better data than ever before. Thirty years ago, maternal mortality rates were only rough estimates.

“Today, data allows us to see clearly the unacceptable rates at which women are dying while giving life; data also shows the inequalities that are quite literally killing them.”

On Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR) in Nigeria, she said that in spite of the progress recorded, it still remained high at over 1,047 per 100,000 live births.

Kanem, however, pledged UNFPA’s support for the country to change that statistic.

The Chairman, National Population Commission, Alhaji Nasir Kwarra, said that the theme of the report aptly amplifies issues that matter most beyond the numbers, emphasising the people that make up the numbers.

He requested that the UNFPA should relentlessly advocate for the conduct of the next census; support in the implementation of ideas and interventions to address key issues raised in the 2024 SWOP.

He said the implementation of the National Population Policy captured the commitments made in Nairobi (2019).

They include sexual and reproductive health, particularly of adolescent girls including prioritising family planning and keeping girls in school.

He said that the implementation would in turn, enable Nigeria manage its population, achieve the required shift in population age-structure for a Demographic Dividend (DD) to occur, as well as in the implementation of the DD Roadmap.

In a goodwill message, Sen.  Mustapha Musa, Senate Committee Chairman on National Identity and  Population, said the legislature deems the issue of population and development important.

“Particularly as it relates to the well-being of women, young people and girls, which connects with addressing the existing inequalities and ensuring that sexual and reproductive health and rights receive the deserved attention.

“I reiterate that the committee I chair will ensure that issues arising from the report will be given due attention.”

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that SWOP is UNFPA’s annual flagship report that features trends in the world population and reports on emerging themes in the field of sexual and reproductive health and rights.

It brings them into the mainstream and explores the challenges and opportunities they present for international development.

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FG hails World Bank’s support to PWDs

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The Federal Government has commended the World Bank for providing technical and financial support to Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) in the country.
The Executive Secretary, National Commission for Persons with Disabilities (NCPWD), Dr James Lalu, said this on Wednesday in Abuja, during a virtual meeting with officials of World Bank.
The meeting was convened to strengthen implementation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) number 10 and 17 for disability inclusion in Nigeria.
Lalu draw the attention of stakeholders to the need to redesign policies and programmes of the commission to conform with the global standard.
”We need policies redesign in the area of social protection programmes because World Bank has the capacity to stimulate disability inclusion and development programme” he said.
The Executive Secretary expressed commitment to improve the welfare of Persons with Disabilities.
Also speaking, Cindy Ikeaka, a World Bank Social Development Specialist said, the bank will continue to provide technical support to the commission to ensure effective delivery of the needs of PWDs.
Ikeaka also said that the bank was working with other Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government to ensure disability data collection.
”This will ensure proper data management of persons with disabilities ” she said.
On her part, Esther Bature, the Country Coordinator of Sightsavers in Nigeria said, her organisation will continue to strengthen national systems to deliver sustainable services.
”We supported NCPWD to develop a five-year national strategic plan and this plan requires different levels of intervention.
”We are happy to see that the World Bank has supported the commission to a kind of review to include monitoring and evaluation in the plan as well as developed several developments documents,” she said.Batur
Nature also thanked the World Bank for its assistance in building the capacity of the commission’s members of staff.
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IPMAN gives Soludo 1 month to address marketers’ grievances

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The Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN), has given Gov. Chukwuma Soludo of Anambra one month within which to address the demands of marketers in the state or face total shutdown of operations without further notice.

Marketers in the state reached this decision at the end of the statewide meeting held in Awka on Tuesday.

Mr Chinedu Anyaso, Chairman of IPMAN Enugu Depot Community, in charge of Anambra, Ebonyi and Enugu States, who addressed Journalists after the meeting, said the association had reported cases affecting its members to the governor without any response.

Anyaso said the grievances of marketers in Anambra included the issue of consolidated revenue payable and withdrawal of all litigations against members based on multiple taxation which was not in line with the understanding IPMAN had with the Anambra government.

He said IPMAN discussed the problem of non-payment of debt amounting to about N900 million owed contractors who supplied diesel for powering streetlight projects in the state.

Anyaso also said that among the demands of the association was the demolition of part of the property of Chris Tee Nigeria limited, a marketer at Trans-Nkissi phase 1 along Onitsha-Otuocha road which was destroyed by agents of government.

He said IPMAN would not issue further notice upon the expiration of the deadline before shutting their outlets.

Anyaso thanked Chief Ken Maduako, a patron of the association, Mr Golden Iloh, member of the Anambra State House of Assembly and representative of the Anambra Internal Revenue Service, for their intervention and hoped that the Soludo administration would act on their plea to prevent the looming industrial action.

He commended Gov. Soludo for his efforts to make Anambra a peaceful and liveable state while urging him to make the business environment conducive for investors, especially oil marketers.

He pledged positive disposition of the association to continue to support his administration to succeed.

The chairman commended marketers for complying fully with the partial shutdown and attendance to the meeting, saying it was a great show of comradeship.

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