The appointment of Dr. Oyindasola Oluremi Oni, Executive Director, Corporate Banking, at First Bank of Nigeria Limited as Board Chairman, National Pension Commission (PenCom), last year, has been generating heat within the financial sub-sector as the appointment is seen as a violation of corporate governance code.
Dr. Oni is currently occupying the two offices simultaneously despite the fact that PenCom is playing a supervisory role in the activities of the pension fund custodians and pension fund administrators.
Analysts’ opinion has it that Oni, while in the employment of FirstBank, a subsidiary of First Bank Holding Plc, may, in the cause of duty as Chairman, Board of Directors of PenCom, compromise his position on issues relating to First Pension Fund Custodian (FPC) as a regulator.
In a letter dated August 25, 2020, President Muhammadu Buhari had requested the Senate to confirm the appointment of Dr. Oyindasola Oluremi Oni (North Central) as chairman of the commission.
The request, which was read on the floor during plenary by the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, was dated August 25, 2020. Also for confirmation were Aisha Dahir Umar (North East) as Director-General; Hannatu Hanney Musa Musawa (North West), Commissioner; Clement Oyedele Akintola (South West), Commissioner; Ayim C. Nyerere (South East), Commissioner; and Charles Efe Sylvester Emukowhate (South South), Commissioner.
President Buhari in his letter addressed to the Senate President explained that the appointment of the nominees was in accordance with the provision of section 19(3) of the Pension Reform Act, 2014.
Although the legal opinion sought by Daily Independent proved otherwise, noting that the two positions occupied by Oni were not in conflict since Oni was not appointed as an executive chairman of PenCom but as a part time chairperson of the commission.
According to Daily Independent, Samuel Aqwe, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), said, “The office of the Chairman of PenCom is not an executive one. That being the case, there’s no law prohibiting him from occupying the office while working at FirstBank. The position would have been different if he were appointed as an executive chairman of PenCom.”
Usman Suleiman, a former Managing Director, Future Unity Glanvills Pensions Limited, now Veritas Glanvills Pensions, corroborated Mr. Aqwe’s position, saying the two offices were not in conflict with each other.
Mr. Suleiman is concerned about possible conflict of interest which has to do with his relationship with the FBN Holdings, the parent company of the First Bank of Nigeria and First Pension Custodian Limited.
He said, “First of all, the chairmanship of the PenCom board is a political appointment and it is not a full time job. Ordinarily, therefore, nothing stops an occupant of that position from engaging in some other undertakings. My concern is, however, the possible conflict of interest and other corporate governance issues that might arise given the fact that FBN is a parent company of a PFC.
“Of course, both the executive that made the appointment and the legislature that approved it must have known about his current engagement. So, approving the appointment must have been informed by some overriding political factors rather than just provisions of the law.”