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Pencom Fund: Reps Threaten To Issue PFAs Bench Warrant

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House of Representatives has threatened to issue a bench warrant to compel Pension Fund Administrators (PFAs) to appear before its ad-hoc committee, if they fail to attend the public hearing.
Rep Johnson Agbonayinma (APC-Edo), Chairman, Ad hoc Committee to investigate the activities of National Pension Commission (PenCom) and its Administrators, gave the warning on Wednesday in an interview with newsmen in Abuja.
The Tides source reports that the House had, after a resolution passed in Feb., ordered the committee to commence investigations into the activities of PenCom since April 2017 over allegation of violation of the Act establishing the commission and the N9 trillion pension fund controversy.
However, the Pension Fund Operators Association of Nigeria (PenOP) had, in two separate letters dated Jan. 28 and April 2, informed the committee that the PFAs would not be able to appear before the committee on Jan. 29 and April 4.
PenOp had, in the letters, attributed the reason the PFAs would not attend the meetings “to prior engagements slated for the same day.”
Agbonayinma, who cautioned the PFAs against disobeying the order of the House, said the PFAs and other stakeholders in the industry were deliberately avoiding the ad hoc committee.
According to him, the pension association, which the committee did not write letters to or invite, has no right to derail the lawmakers from holding the investigative hearing.
“If they fail to appear before the committee, we would have no option than to apply the law.
“That is, we would have to seek to issue bench warrant so that they can be compelled to come to appear before this ad-hoc committee.
“We would do just that to PFAs that refused to appear before this ad hoc committee ànd any organisation, not just the PFAs that are invited but the banks and PenCom,” he said.
The lawmaker, who expressed concern over the development, said the committee would not succumb to any deliberate effort to undermine the committee’s work.
“We have been having different issues; people trying to avoid coming to the public hearing.
“We had our first public hearing. In order for us to continue with our investigations that was slated for Thursday, I believe some people are trying to derail the wheel of the progress of our ad hoc committee.
“We invited different PFAs, we invited the PenCom, the acting DG, the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC) and many civil societies who submitted document related to the subject matter.
“We never invited the so-called Pension Fund Operators Association of Nigeria (PenOp).
“But we are surprised to be receiving letters; the first one we received before our public hearing telling us that the PFAs will not be able to attend under the umbrella of PenOp.
“There was no time this ad hoc committee wrote a letter to PenOp. They have been representing the various PFAs we have invited, the administrators, some of the banks and the custodians of the funds,” he said.
Agbonayinma said the committee was surprised to receive another letter from the association on April 3 “writing to us that the pension operators will not be able to attend the investigative hearing slated for tomorrow (April 4).”
The legislator, who condemned the act, described the move as “a plot to derail the wheel of progress of the ad hoc committee.”
“This has to do with the Nigerian people, the workers who have worked and deserved to make sure that whatever money is deducted from their accounts should be put to use and the PenCom must do the needful,” he said.
He, however, hinted that since no one has been indicted, the public hearing was “to serve as an opportunity for the stakeholders to clear the air on issues raised and assure Nigerians that nothing is amiss.”

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Delta Poll: PDP Sweeps All 25 LGs

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The Peoples Democratic Party has won all seats in Saturday’s Local Government election conducted across 500 wards in the 25 Local Government Areas of Delta State.
The election was contested by ten political parties, who fielded candidates for chairmanship and councillorship positions.
Declaring the results, the Chief Electoral Officer and Chairman of Delta State Independent Electoral Commission, Dr Raphael Agbaike, said the PDP contested and won in 24 LGs in the July 13 2024 election.
‘’However, the chairmanship candidate of the PDP in Udu Local Government Area was returned unopposed.
“The PDP candidates for councillorship positions contested and won 499 electoral wards while the Allied Peoples Movement (APM) won one electoral ward in Oshimili North Local Government Area” he declared.
Certificates of return were presented to 25 council chairmen.
Meanwhile, TAF Africa has commended the Delta State Independent Electoral Commission for their exceptional efforts in ensuring a more inclusive and secure election environment, particularly for those with disabilities.
The Founder of TAF Africa, Mr Jake Epelle, made the commendation on Sunday while giving the foundation report in Asaba after the 2024 Local Government election.
“Our observations from the field highlight both the positive strides made and the areas needing improvement to promote a truly inclusive democratic process,” he said.
Epelle listed some key observations including adequate security and peaceful conduct, low voter turnout due to apathy, disfranchisement due to new polling units, inclusive voting practices, and non-conduct of elections in specific areas.
He highlighted the need for SIEC to consider relocating these voters to polling units closer to their homes for better convenience and mobility.
On his part, the Programme Officer of TAF Africa, Mr. Adeolu Kilanko explained that voter apathy posed a significant threat to the democratic system, adding that the impact was more pronounced in people with disabilities.
“Voter apathy can lead to their voices being further marginalized. It is essential to ensure that the electoral process is not only inclusive but also perceived as trustworthy and transparent.
“We can encourage greater participation from all segments of society including persons with disabilities, by rebuilding confidence in our elections”, Kilanko stressed.
Also speaking, TAF Senior Communication Manager, Lynn Agwuocha called on all electoral management bodies to prioritize rebuilding public confidence and to make necessary adjustments to facilitate easier access to voting for all citizens particularly those with disabilities.

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Nigeria Lacks People Who Speak Truth To Power – Obi

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The 2023 presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Mr Peter Obi, has regretted the dearth of courageous people who can speak truth to power.
Obi who spoke last Saturday, during the 10th anniversary of Alaigbo Development Foundation in Umuahia, Abia State, regretted that the country had abundance of praise singers who tell leaders what they what to hear.
The former Anambra State Governor who recalled how he judiciously managed public funds while in office, also charged public leaders to use public funds for the people.
He further charged them to make people-centred policies, and pursue programmes that promote public peace.
Mr Obi blamed the woes of Nigeria on avarice and insatiable quest for wealth among public office holders.
He, therefore, challenged Nigerians to speak truth to power and stop hero worshipping.
Mr Obi said: “What we lack in Nigeria is people who can tell you you are wrong when you are. Leaders are bound to listen to the people because the people put them in the office.
“ Leaders must use public money for public purpose”.
Continuing, he said: “When I was in public office, I used public money for public purpose. I made sure I used the peoples money for them.
“ I did not spend any Kobo for personal gain. I didn’t take it owing pensions, gratuities. I did not owe any contractor. Now in private life I can do whatever I like with my money.”
The former Anambra State Governor who said he left office without owing workers including pensioners and contractors, disclosed that he also left behind $150m for the state.
Mr Obi solicited continued prayers for leaders so they would serve the people with the fear of God.
The former Anambra Governor who advocated role for traditional institution, advised Government to partner socio-cultural organisations for the development of society.
He further encouraged ADF to continue its advocacy and sensitisation of Ndigbo for advancing the cause of the Igbo nation.
Obi also preached unity among Ndigbo.
In his remark, the pioneer President of ADF, Professor Uzodinma Nwala, said the objective of ADF had been to galvanise Igbo stakeholders for the development of Alaigbo.
The new national President of ADF, Nze Coleman Emeka Chukudelunzu, called for unity among Ndigbo to rebuild Igbo land.
Earlier in his opening remarks, the Chairman of the event, Maj General Chris Eze (retd.), commended the doggedness of Ndigbo to overcome the challenges of the civil war.

 

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S’Court Verdict On LG Autonomy, Sheer Judicial Conspiracy – Afenifere

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The Pan Yoruba Socio-Political Group, Afenifere, has faulted the Supreme Court verdict that granted fiscal autonomy to local government areas.
It lamented that the apex court’s verdict has “done incalculable injury” to the Nigerian state.
This was contained in a statement signed by the leader of the group, Pa Ayo Adebanjo and its National Publicity Secretary, Prince Justice Faloye, and made available to newsmen in Akure, the Ondo State capital.
Entitled “Tinubu and the Grand Conspiracy Against Democracy and True Federalism in Nigeria”, the statement declared that “Afenifere views the judgment of the Supreme Court in the case filed by the Federal Government on the so-called Local Government autonomy as sheer judicial conspiracy in cahoots with the Tinubu administration against the Nigerian state and its foundational principles of federalism.
“Rather than interpret the constitution to uphold its elementary but overriding federal principle which recognises only a two-tier federal structure of the central government and federating states, the Supreme Court played to the gallery and wittingly allowed itself a most retrogressive declaration that the power of the government is portioned into three arms of government, the federal, the state and the local government.
“For the avoidance of any doubt, Afenifere makes bold to say that in line with its negotiated basis of existence, Nigeria is a ‘Federation consisting of States and a Federal Capital Territory’ as affirmed by Section 2 (2) of the 1999 constitution.
“While Afenifere frowns at corruption and misuse of public funds at levels of government, it condemns in most unmistaken terms  the subjugation of the states and its constitutional roles including the Local Government system to the whims and caprices of the federal government by any means including obvious manipulation of the federation account as in the present case.
“The 1999 constitution, which in spite of its flaws, gives life and power to the Supreme Court provides in Section 162 and particularly subsection (6) that “each state shall maintain a special account to be called “State Joint Local Government Account” into which shall be paid all allocations to the local government councils of the state from the Federation Account and from the Government of the state”.
“Against this unambiguous provision the Supreme Court held that “demands of justice requires a progressive interpretation of the law.
“ It is the position of this court that the federation can pay Local Government allocations to the Local Government directly or pay them through the states.
“ In this case, since paying them through states has not worked, justice of this case demands that Local Government allocations from the federation account should henceforth be paid directly to the Local Governments .
“Contrary to this invented alternative routes, Section 162 of the Constitution is not ambivalent about the process and route through which “all allocations to the local government councils of the state from the Federation Account and from the Government of the state” shall become payable to the Councils.
“In other words, the interpretation does not require a voyage into jurisprudential  sophistry leading to the absurdity of deliberate judicial amendment of the grundnorm.
“By wittingly or inadvertently equating the Nigerian Federation with the Federal Government in the erroneous belief that both expressions are used interchangeably, such that the President may withhold funds to the credit of the Local Governments from the Federation Account, under the guise of having no democratically elected officials, which is obviously subject to the interpretation by the Federal Government.
“ The apex court has not only done incalculable injury to the Nigerian state, it has  lent itself to setting aside its precedent in the  hallowed judgment against the President Obasanjo administration withholding funds to the credit of Local Governments in Lagos State even when the Supreme Court agreed that the Local Council Development Authorities (LCDA) created by then Governor Tinubu were inchoate and fell short of constitutional requirements.
“ It is becoming stridently eloquent that with just over a year of its inauguration, the Tinubu government,  more than even the military administrations, is uncannily determined to unitarise the Nigerian Federation.
‘Part of the unitary package is the creation of the Ministry of Livestock Development which is the audacious euphemism for the re-introduction of Cattle Colony, RUGA and those other policies by which the Buhari administration sought to appropriate lands in the states contrary to the provisions of the Land Use Act and the Constitution which vest land in the state in the Governor in trust for the people.
“Afenifere insists that the way forward for Nigeria is not the confusing rudderless tinkering but holistic restructuring of the polity to re-enact the fundamental principles of true federalism as agreed by the founding fathers.
‘ This includes the fact that the Local Government system is an exclusive preserve of the states, either by direct constitutional provisions or residual powers in a federation.”

 

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