CSOs Clear PenCom DG Aisha Dahiru of Misappropriating $1.8m

The investigation report conducted by the Coalition of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in Nigeria into the alleged financial misconduct involving Aisha Dahiru-Umar, the Director General of the National Pension Commission (PenCom), has exonerated her from any wrongdoing.

Based on the preliminary findings of the investigation, it has been determined that there is no evidence to support the allegations that Dahiru-Umar misappropriated funds amounting to $1,800,480 and N4,965,327, as had been claimed.

Specifically, the Centre for Public Accountability (CPA) had accused the PenCom DG of receiving $1,800,480 on January 3, 2019, during a trip to Washington DC. Additionally, it was alleged that Dahiru-Umar was paid N4,243,116 on March 13, 2020, for airfare to attend the Reinventing HR Summit in London and was also granted an estacode of N3,077,648. The accusations further included the claim that she received $259,200 during the trip.

However, the investigation report categorically dismisses these accusations as “false, frivolous, unfounded, malicious, and a product of the individuals’ imagination.” It has been discerned that the primary motive behind these allegations is to divert attention from Dahiru-Umar’s substantial efforts to bring about significant reforms within the commission.

“Simply put, the allegations and the documents being bandied were hurriedly cooked up by seekers of favour as a bargaining chip to seek political appointment under the President Bola Tinubu government.”

The group said in a joint world press conference on Wednesday that it conducted the investigation using a pool of experts who assessed the claims by CPA.

The group is a coalition of CSOs with a mandate to intervene in the public interest over issues relating to graft and general public complaints in government.

Based on their findings, the allegations and documents “being bandied were hurriedly cooked up by seekers of favour as a bargaining chip to seek political appointment under the President Bola Tinubu government.”

The report said contrary to the claims that Aisha-Dahiru was paid N4,243,116, N3,077,648 and $259,200 for trips in 2020, countries including Nigeria were on lockdown.

The report said, “For the avoidance of doubt, it was alleged that the said estacode was received in the year 2020. This again raises a red flag in the entire choreographed episode. You will agree with me that the entire global community was on a total lockdown — no movement of persons within and outside the country.

“In fact, there was no inter-state travels as a result Covid-19 pandemic which held the global community by the jugular. Despite this, our team meticulously and methodologically deployed their technical know-how and discovered NOTHING implicating against the Director General.

“Investigations however revealed that what was at play is simply a demonstration of envy, bitterness, powerplay and unexplained gang up against the Director-General by persons who are afraid that the giant feat she has achieved since assumption of office is displacing the old order, thereby thwarting their efforts to keep the entire sector perpetually backward in a rapidly moving world for their own nefariously selfish intentions.

“It is one of those scenarios where people fabricate malicious allegations to cheaply blackmail performing heads of government institutions with the primary objective to distract them and instigate their appointor (the President) against them.”

The report also highlighted the sterling performance of the PenCom boss since she became the acting DG and was later confirmed in 2020 by former President Muhammadu Buhari.

The CSO report said she raised the country’s pension asset from N6.42trn in 2017 when she came on board to N15.5trn as at February 2023.

The report also highlighted how reformed the pensions industry is through recapitalization from N1bn to N5bn.

The report noted, “Another first in the nation’s pension industry is the approval of structured reduction of fees on the Net Asset Value of pension fund assets as well as the introduction of the Micro Pension Plan for the participation of informal sector workers in the Contributory Pension Scheme.

“Among many other brilliant innovations she has introduced is the mortgage scheme for retirement savings account holders, which enables RSA holders to use the balance of their RSA savings for the purpose of of mortgage.

“The DG’s visible reformatory drives led to the approval by former President the sum of N159.466 billion for the payment of outstanding accrued rights and other pension liabilities of the government’s retirees.

“That is an open expression of confidence in the leadership of PenCom under Mrs. Dahir-Umar.”

The report recalled how similar allegations were made against the PenCom boss under former President Buhari which failed because it lacked substance.

It added, “While we pass a vote of confidence on the Director General of PenCom, we appeal to all stakeholders to ignore the unfounded allegations against her and continue to offer support as she is poised to give all Nigerians a life worth living post-retirement.

“We call on President Bola Tinubu to sustain the federal government’s support towards the total overhaul of the country’s pension sector for a collective success in the interest of our senior citizens and all other members of our society.”