The 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 on April 4.
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 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.’’
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.”