Far beyond and above the orchestrated political drama surrounding the National Pension Commission (Pen Com), there seems to be an absence of focus on what is quintessential for the industry-there’s a woeful deficit of public discussion and awareness on the trust-building initiatives that the commission has recently engendered. Very little is discussed about the on-going steps for internal reforms, increased professionalism and transparency at the commission. Rather much energy of public dialogue is being squandered on such matters as to what should be the tribal pedigree and geo-political origin of the occupant of D-G’s position at PenCom. Despite the allure of such issue and other diversionary and emotional subjects regarding PenCom, they do not bear any significance on the vital obligations of the regulatory agency.

It should be clear that the foremost consideration for the Nigerian worker who has toiled into old age and dependent on their pensions is the indissoluble guarantee that their savings are secured. While the elites who have appropriated huge personal wealth may be advancing other interests or even maneuvering around the potential 8-trillion naira fund under the fiduciary supervision of Pen Com, the average Nigerian pensioner has only one interest-to see that dependable and trusted management is at the helms of the commission’s affairs. Unfortunately, the voices of those who bear the greatest risk if the pension commission fails in its obligation, those voices are regrettably suffocated by jingoists with dubious motives in the industry.

As a long time monitor of issues relating to workers pension world-wide, I can affirm that the most essential asset in any such operation is the element of trust. If PenCom is to gain global respect as the supervisory custodian of the life-saving assets of pensioners, then the most crucial and vulnerable stakeholders must have confidence in the competence and honesty of the commissions’ management.

For instance, irrespective of her tribe, it would always be questionable as to why a former chief executive of PenCom established a television station for the commission. The station on which about 2 billion naira was allegedly spent is literally of no value to either the commission or the stakeholders whose interest PenCom was supposed to advance and protect The same kind of unbiased scrutiny should be extended to the annual fiesta called, World Africa Pension Summit ,that was staged by Pen Com for three consecutive years 2014,2015 and 2016. How can it be defended or explained that a sum of 1 billion naira of the commissions’ resources was spent on this event every year. While the prestigious event could have been of considerable social and self- enhancing benefits for some leaders of PenCom, the event was denounced by respectable stakeholders in the industry to be absolutely valueless to the statutory mission of the commission.

Since her appointment as acting Director-General being the most senior staff in PenCom’s hierarchy to fill the vacancy left in 2017, Acting D-G Aisha Dahir- Umar has engaged in various internal reforms to cleanse and strengthen the image of PenCom. A widely respected management scholar and seasoned administrator, Dahir-Umar made thoughtful executive review of the pending programs by her predecessor while she scrapped those with questionable public benefits. . Despite intense pressure from those ingrained in the sickening sociology of PenCom, the Acting D-G took the courageous decision not to resume what was obviously a 1 billion naira annual shenanigan in the guise of a global pension submit . Dahir-Umar has equally acted with speed in catalyzing the progressive projects established by the fouding D-Gs of Pencom. She has been tireless in setting up the structures for the smooth commencement of the Micro Pension Scheme. Dahir-Umar’s enthusiasm in this project is understandable as the scheme would encourage people without regular income to establish a culture of savings. Such small business owners as barbers, taxi drivers and low-income market women will be offered special flexibility which will allow them early withdrawals to meet up with exigent needs especially for re-investments in and expansion of their enterprises. Informed watchers of the industry are keenly watching PenCom’s comprehensive preparation and campaign to ensure widespread registration and collections as well as well attractive structured payments of benefits as envisaged under the scheme.

One incontrovertible fact is the determined effort of new Director –General to regenerate trust in the supervisory agency and the commitment is yielding desired results. There are signs of increased confidence in PenCom as the new management did not lose time in sending signals of new orientation internally and to concerned contributors and participants in the industry. Within a short period of Dahir-Umar’s tenure, the assets under the new management recorded an unprecedented growth of about 16 percent- a leap from N 6.42 trillion to N 7.51 trillion between March and December 2017. The positive consequence of the transparent and affirmative fidelity to the best practices of global pension management has additionally buoyed the population of contributors with an approximate 400,000 within a period of 6 months.

From every informed projection, the future of the pension industry under PenCom is formidably encouraging. It seems that the new management is prepared to usher in a new era of greater participation and understanding of the affairs of the regulatory agency as a way of building confidence and trust. The fiduciary duty of regulation, supervision and ensuring the effective administration of pension matters in Nigeria are too vital to the lives of millions of pensioners and the nation’s economy. The new management of PenCom must therefore embrace the historic obligation of its assignment with a sense of sacred patriotism and professionalism so as not to betray the hopes and aspirations especially of those who depend on the agency for their very survival.

Chukwura Ibiam, Economic Analyst writes from Enugu.