Kaduna State

  • Nine things you need to know about Kaduna’s electronic voting system deployed for LG elections

    What is electronic voting?

    Electronic voting or e-voting is the use of electronic machines to aid in voting and counting. It works with either commuters connected to the internet or an Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) that records votes by means of a ballot display. The EVM is a computerized box-like machine that comes with an attaching ballot box where generated ballots drop in. Each voter will have to approach the machine to cast his/her vote. The Chairman, Kaduna State Independent Electoral Commission (KADSIECOM), Dr. Saratu Binta Dikko-Audu, said the EVM software has been upgraded to increase the credibility of the election process and is “simpler to use than the ordinary analog phone.”

    Is electronic voting legal?

    Kaduna State Government in 2018 substituted the Kaduna State Independent Electoral Commission Law No. 10 of 2012 and other Matters Ancillary, with the Kaduna State Independent Electoral Commission Law, 2018 to pave the way for electronic voting in the state. Section 16 (3) of the state law provides that the State Independent Electoral Commission shall have power to determine the method by which voters may be verified and accredited for the purpose of casting their votes. It states that: “Such verification and voting shall be through the use of approved electronic devices, smart card reader and electronic voting machine.”

    How the EVM works

    While displaying the machine recently, the commission’s boss said the machine first opens the page for the chairmanship election for any voter to select the logo of the party of his/her candidate by just a tap. The screen then enlarges the logo for the voter to tap the ok or cancel button. “If you tap the ok button, your vote is captured and on the left side of the screen, the tally for which the logo of the party selected will be generated and the slip drops into the ballot box. The same process is repeated for the councillors vote,” said Dr. Audu.

    Does the EVM operate with a PVC?

    The Permanent Voters Card (PVCs) was not used in Kaduna’s 2018 electronic election but the EVM software has now been upgraded to use PVCs. The KADSIECOM boss has explained that presiding officers at each polling unit will authorize voters but each voter will vote using his or her own PVCs to open the platform then proceed to select the logos of the parties of their candidates of choice.

    What will happen on election day?

    The elections for the 23 LGC is scheduled for September 4th, 2021 and residents are expected to go to the polls with their PVCs. The Presiding Officer at each polling unit will set up the EVM for voting which will be done in front of party agents, security agents, and the electorate present at the polling unit. Dr. Saratu Binta Dikko-Audu said accreditation will be done manually using the voter register. “The assistant presiding officer will check the voter register and check your voter card then mark you on the voter register and mark your thumb with an indelible ink,” she said.

    Tackling fears of multiple voting

    There are fears that the EVM could be used for multiple voting as it was the major concern during the 2018 local government election in the state. However, the State Independent Electoral Commission said the software has been upgraded to increase the credibility of the election process, adding that there will be no room for multiple voting. The commission’s boss said the indelible ink marked on the hands of voters will deny them access to another polling unit or another machine. She also said, “once the electorate has voted, the machine will capture the PVC. It can view the card, it won’t see the chip in the card but it will deny that card access to vote a second time,” so this time around, we have cancelled multiple voting so whoever thinks he can take the machine and continue to vote over and over again, they won’t have that access.” 

    Can you vote for only chairmanship or councillorship?

    If for any reason a voter feels the need to participate in only one category of the election, this is possible according to the chairman of KADSIECOM who said all that is needed is for the voter to press the cancel button twice. “It will ask if you are sure you don’t want to vote, then you press ok and you cancel the second time and that’s it, the machine shuts down and you can put your PVC as many times as you like, it will not open again until the presiding officer comes and another voter approaches the voting machine.”

    How results will be transmitted

    The state’s electoral body says an agreement was reached with service providers to boost networks on election day. However, where unforeseen circumstances force poor networks in some areas, the machine can transmit results to the server as soon as it gets to a network area. Another alternative according to KADSIECOM is to transfer recorded votes from the EVM memory into a flash drive to be transmitted to the server. Dr, Audu explained that the paper tally which drops into the box can also be removed and counted.

    Resolving vote contention

    The commission’s boss in Kaduna explained that at the end of the election, the presiding officer will print out a summary of activities on the machine which captures all votes, to be given to every party agent, security agent, and those who will wait till the end of the election. By this she said, each can take a copy of summaries printed out by the presiding officer. Where there are cases of contention, the EVM can be opened before it leaves the polling unit for the tallys to be sorted out and counted. 

  • True, Kaduna iron ore mining company is recruiting

    Claim: A viral message circulating on  WhatsApp claims that a multi-billion Naira Iron ore mining company located in Gujeni, Kaduna State is recruiting a massive national workforce to resume operation by January 2022.

    The claim that a multi-billion Naira Iron ore mining company located in Gujeni, Kaduna State is recruiting a massive national workforce to resume operation by January 2022 is true. Findings reveal the recruitment is already taking place. 

    Full Text

    A viral message circulating on WhatsApp claims that a multi billion naira Iron ore mining company located in Gujeni, Kaduna State is recruiting a massive national workforce to resume operation by January 2022.

    The forward-as-received message states that applications are expected from all parts of Nigeria to fill vacant positions, urging interested persons to forward their applications and CVs via : [email protected]

    The post reads:

    “KADUNA UPDATE: EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITIES  

    Nigeria’s first steel manufacturing plant comes on-stream in Kagarko Local Government, Kaduna State after more than 50 years of failed efforts in Ajaokuta. 

    There is a multi billion naira Iron ore mining company located in Gujeni, Kaduna State, 19 km from Abuja. The mining plant is situated on over 500 hectares of land with an expected workforce of 2,000 workers made up of Nigerians and 300 expatriates. The plant is under construction and the first phase is about to be completed and will resume operations by January 2022.

    A massive national workforce is required and experienced hands are also required to support the Iron Ore Processing Project to run effectively. The iron will then be further processed into steel in Nigeria. Be part of this historic feat by applying!

    Urgent Positions required are:

    1. Field Engineer

    2. Mechanical & Electrical University Graduates 

    3. Shift Foreman

    4. Boiler Field Operator

    5. Turbine Field Operator

    6. Shift Engineers

    7. Fitter Mechanic

    8. Electrical Shift Engineer

    9. Electrician

    10. Instrumentation Technicians

    11. Chemist

    12. Planning Engineer

    Applications are expected from all parts of Nigeria.

    All applications/CVs should be sent to : [email protected]

    Screenshot of forward as received message

    The same claim has also been making the rounds on Facebook. The Governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El-Rufai, has also shared the same claim on his verified Facebook timeline which attracted massive traction from users. It garnered close to 3,000, over 450 comments and around 1,000 shares.

    The claim as it appeared on Governor El-Rufai’s Facebook Timeline

    A user,  Abdulrahman Abubakar,  who reacted to the post on the Governor’s timeline inquired thus, “The email address given is not working, Sir, are there any alternative methods for sending the CV to the company?”  Another user, on WhatsApp, discredited the job offer “this is fake, you should be careful where and to whom you share your CVs.” 

    Regardless of the diverse opinions, similar Job offers have been used by charlatans to collect the personal information of unsuspecting members of the society for fraudulent and malicious purposes.  As such, DUBAWA opts to verify the veracity of the information. 

    Verification

    DUBWA first surveyed websites of both the Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel and the Kaduna State Government to find out  if there is any information regarding the recruitment. But no such information emerged. 

    Further query on the identity and activities of the  company  showed that the  mining company is registered with the  Corporate Affairs Commission  with the name “African Natural Resources and Mines” (ANRML), in 2012.  However, the registration status reads “inactive” which means the company has not filed its annual returns up to date.

    Dubawa contacted the special adviser on media and communications to the governor of Kaduna state, Muyiwa Adekeye, via text message, and he confirmed the company is accepting applications as published  the Governor’s page. 

    He clarified that, “The message is authentic, the company is currently recruiting to start operation by January 2022.” 

    Other facts gathered  from the response also revealed the recruitment is in bid to achieve a novel feat by the mining company.  In fact, the company has been working on the initiative for over 9 years now. 

    What you need to know about the first steel manufacturing plant.

    African Natural Resources and Mines (ANRML)  is an African Industry Groups Company, and it started setting up an Integrated Iron Ore Mining and Processing Plants Project, first of its kind in Nigeria.

    The Project will mine over 4.704 Million tonnes of Iron ore per annum to scale up to 5.88 million tonnes per annum. The Iron ore resource is certified as per NI 43 101 international standards by a reputed international agency and has completed the Techno Commercial Viability (TCV). ANRML has conducted Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) as per IFC performance standards.

    The steel plant will generate 36 megawatts of electricity to the national grid and would boost the already generated megawatts of power for other economic activities and increase power supply to Kagarko Local Government to help develop other industries and urbanize the local area.

    The company’s steel will also carry out beneficiation, pelletizing and converting of iron into direct used iron for steel manufacturing and that it will galvanise the industrial space into a hub of production of finished goods for local consumption and export.

    Is African natural resources and mines company the first steel manufacturing plant in Nigeria?

    No, the history of Nigeria’s attempt to develop the steel industry in Nigeria dates back to the establishment of the Ajaokuta Steel Project in September 1979.

    Designed as an integrated iron and steel complex, the first phase was designed to produce 1.3million tonnes (MT) of liquid steel per annum with capacity to expand to 2.6 MT and 5.2MT in three phases. The Federal Government also established the Delta Steel Company in Aladja which was commissioned in 1982, (now privately owned) with a capacity of 1.0MT per annum. 

    Agbaja Iron Ore Project, in Kogi state was completed in January 2014, and the production of iron ore concentrate was anticipated to start by the end of 2016 or early 2017.

    These companies have, however, not been fully functional owing to a myriad of factors including poor corporate governance.

    No doubt the African natural resources and mines company is the first major investment in the mining sector in more than two decades, but not the first mining company in Nigeria. The project will have a capacity of 5.4 metric tonnes per annum and will create 3,500 direct jobs and thousands of indirect jobs if it actively starts to operate in 2022.

    Conclusion

    Findings have revealed the claim circulating on  WhatsApp asking Nigerians to apply for the vacancies in the multi-billion naira Iron ore mining company,  located in Gujeni, Kaduna State is true. The initiative is  intended to boost the  massive national workforce that is hoped to  resume operation by January 2022. Hence the claim is true. 

    The researcher produced this fact-check per the 2021 Kwame Karikari Fact-checking Fellowship partnership with JAY 101.9 FM Jos to facilitate the ethos of truth in journalism and enhance media literacy in the country.

  • Soldiers did not kill Farakwai youth as widely claimed by Nigerian media

    Claim: Nigeria’s Guardian Newspaper, Sahara Reporters, Opera News and other local media claim that soldiers killed and injured Farakwai youths who were chasing bandits from their community on Wednesday, July 21, 2021.  

    The published stories are false and misleading. There is no evidence such incident happened in Kwanar Farakwai Village, Igabi Local Government in Kaduna State.

    Full Text

    Banditry has now reached an all time high in Nigeria, with constant reports of school kidnappings, murders and attacks on villages. The Nigerian government, as well as the international community are concerned, and rightfully so, as banditry is threatening food security, national mobility, foreign trade and is further discouraging more parents in Northern Nigeria from sending their children to school.

    It is, therefore, not surprising that local communities have created vigilante and hunter groups to protect and defend themselves against bandits as the federal government has not succeeded in exterminating the dreaded groups.

    Therefore,this situation can explain the dismay of citizens when a reputable media organisation like The Guardian Newspaper, along with other online media and blogs like Sahara Reporters, Opera News, Lindaikeji Blog, Tori.ng, Olorisupergal and Naijalumia report that Nigerian soldiers attacked youths who were chasing bandits from their community, killing three and leaving about 10 others hospitalised. The incident reportedly occurred on Wednesday, July 21, 2021 in Kwanar Farakwai village, Igabi Local Council of Kaduna State.

    But, what actually happened? Would Nigerian soldiers kill and harm youths trying to protect their people and community? 

    Dubawa read all the news stories about the event published on The Guardian Newspaper, Sahara Reporters, Opera News, Lindaikeji Blog, Tori.ng, olorisupergal, as well as Naijalumia, and the narratives were all the same. Youths from Kwanar Farakwai village in Igabi Local Council of Kaduna State, which happens to be some kilometres away from Zaria were chasing away kidnappers from their village when the kidnappers entered a cave. The youths were said to have beseeched the cave and it was alleged that a company around the area thought the youths were the criminals, they called security operatives to the scene and the soldiers on arrival killed three youths and injured about 10 others.

    Screenshot of Guardian’s Tweet on the story

    Verification

    An indigene and resident of Kwanar Farakwai village, Dr. Bashir Mijinyawa, told Dubawa that the incident did not happen at Farakwai, a town about 15 kilometres to Zaria. Dr. Mijinyawa said that the narration in the media is far from reality, noting that about 23:00 hours on July 23rd, 2021, some bandits attacked the Maraban Jos Division Police Headquarters in Kaduna, storming the station in three Sharon buses to override the divisional armoury but they were resisted by operatives. And that bandits did not attack Farakwai Village on that date and no youths were killed by soldiers.

    Dubawa also received a press statement by the Kaduna State Police Command dated July 24th, 2021 stating that the state’s police command on Maraban Jos was attacked but that the force fought them off. The press release was signed by ASP Muhammad Jalige, the Police Force Public Relations Officer for the Commissioner of Police, Kaduna State Command. There was no mention of Kwanar Farakwai youths nor of report of any encounter with them.

    Conclusion

    The news stories on the killing of youths in Kaduna state are false and misleading. There is no evidence that youths in Kwanar Farakwai were killed and injured by soldiers. The only recorded incident that happened in Kaduna State between Wednesday 21st and Friday 23rd, 2021 was an attack on the Maraban Jos Divisional Police Station in Kaduna State.

  • False report claims Nigerian soldiers intercepted sand truck concealing weapons in Kaduna

    Claim: Several Facebook users claim soldiers of the Nigerian Army intercepted a sand truck which concealed sophisticated weapons and ammunition allegedly billed for delivery to bandits in Birnin Gwari forest of Kaduna State.

    This claim is false. Security agents have denied intercepting the truck and images of the cache of weapons that accompanied the story are recycled images that had appeared in 2013 and 2015.  

    Full Story

    On July 13, 2021, three pictures and a report appeared on Facebook with the claim that Nigerian soldiers intercepted a truck containing sand which concealed sophisticated weapons, including rocket propelled launchers and ammunition along the Kaduna-Birnin Gwari road. The lengthy post in Hausa and English soon gained traction and was shared several times by social media users. 

    The post stated that after evacuating the sand, the soldiers discovered over 6,000 ammunition, 34 AK-47 rifles, three rocket propelled launchers, six explosive vests and many other sophisticated weapons. It indicated that some very influential Nigerians were behind the transportation of the weapons.

    Nigerian Times Magazine shared the post and pictures on its Facebook page.

    According to the report, the vehicle driver had confessed that he was paid N200,000 to convey the weapons to a forest in Birnin Gwari and hinted that his accomplices were trailing behind in a Toyota Highlander Jeep. The soldiers were said to have arrested five people from the jeep and with the driver, the six suspects were moved to a military facility in Kaduna for further questioning.  

    Dahiru Mukhtar posted the report in Hausa and it was shared 58 times from his Facebook page.

    Abatam Nwosu with 3,918 friends on Facebook posted the message which was shared 22 times. The report and images were also circulated in Hausa by a Facebook user, Dahiru Mukhtar which was also shared 58 times from his timeline. On Instagram, a popular blogger Muhammad Auwal Muazu (@hausaa_fulani), who has 560,000 followers, also posted the report and images.    

    Popular blogger, Muhammad Auwal Muazu with the handle @hausaa_fulani also shared the post on instagram. 

    Verification

    In all instances, the report was circulated with three pictures including that of the alleged truck that was intercepted and the cache of sophisticated weapons seized.

    Verifying Image 1

    The first image was that of the alleged truck with a red head and a white body. The picture which was taken at night appeared blurry. A Yandex image search and Tineye did not provide any information on the picture but a Google reverse image search only took this reporter to the same report and images on the alleged interception as published by other platforms. 

    Screenshot from a Google reverse image search shows the picture of the truck only appeared in the alleged posts claiming Nigerian soldiers had intercepted the sand truck

    Verifying Image 2

    Image two is that of a cache of sophisticated weapons including rocket propelled launchers. A Yandex reverse image search shows the image has appeared numerous times online. According to Time, the images are of weapons seized by the Nigerian forces from Islamist extremists group, Boko Haram in Borno State and displayed for the press on June 5th 2013. It credited the image to Quentine Leboucher/AFP.

    Screenshot of a report by Time showing image two appeared first in 2013 

    Further, i24 news also credited the same image to Quentine Leboucher/AFP and attributed the weapons to the ones displayed by Nigerian forces on June 5th 2013 after it seized them from Boko Haram.  

    Verifying Image 3

    Using Tineye, 78 results were provided for image three which first appeared online in 2018. Yandex reverse image search also shows that the image has been used by a lot of international media outfits to visualize stories on gun control. 

    A report by [email protected]: titled “Will ‘Red Flag’ gun laws prevent mass shootings?” Indicated that the weapons were seized by authority and shown at a news conference in Los Angeles on Tuesday, October 9th 2018. It also credited Jae C. Hong for the picture. 

    This image first appeared in 2018 and is credited to Jae C. Hong/AP

    The image was also used by Politico in the story: “Canada bans assault-style guns after Nova Scotia rampage,” while San Francisco Chronicle in its use of the image corroborated that they were illegally possessed firearms seized by authorities and shown at a news conference in Los Angeles on Tuesday, October 9, 2018. It also corroborated that the image was shot by Jae C. Hong of the Associated Press (AP).

    Verifying Report 

    Security sources in Kaduna have denied the report, calling it Fake News. This reporter reached out to the spokesperson of the Nigerian Army 1 Division, Col. Ezindu Idimah, who said the report was fabricated as no such arrest was made. The Nigerian Police Command in Kaduna through the Public Relations Officer, ASP Mohammed Jalige, also said findings show no such arrests have been made within Birnin Gwari or Kaduna State. He said the report was fabricated and planted to achieve a mischievous agenda.       

    Conclusion 

    The report and images posted on social media depicting soldiers intercepting a sand truck concealing sophisticated weapons is misleading as two of the images used are recycled images that first appeared in 2013 and 2015 while there is insufficient evidence to trace the picture of the truck. 

    This researcher produced this Fact Check per the Dubawa 2020 Fellowship partnership with Daily Trust newspapers to facilitate the ethos of truth in journalism and enhance media literacy in the country. 

  • How true is El-Rufai’s claim that no country in the world offers free university education?

    Claim: On the 17th of June 2021, during one of his live media chats, Governor of Kaduna State, Malam Nasir El-Rufai claimed that there was nowhere in the world where university or polytechnic education is free.

    Governor Nasir El-Rufai’s claim is false as it was made to reinforce his administration’s policy on the increment of school fees in tertiary institutions. Tertiary or higher education is free for citizens in some countries around the world like UAE and Brunei Darussalam.

    Full Text

    Kaduna State Government has been in an on- again, off- again battle with students of the state owned Kaduna State University (KASU) following an unprecedented increment in tuition fees. In April, news leaked that the university’s school fees had been increased by about 500 percent. Resident and non-resident students who paid between N23,000 and N38,000 depending on the faculty would now pay between N150,000 and N500,000, depending on the course of study. 

    The school management had later denied the alleged figure circulating online and in a statement stressed that: “though tuition fee would be reviewed upwards with specific fees on each course, it is yet to be announced. The figures being spread on social media are false.”

    Few weeks later, students of the institution took to the streets to protest the increment and called for a total reversal of the policy but the state government insisted there was no going back on the increment. The Deputy Governor of the state, Dr. Hadiza Balarabe had in a meeting with representatives of the students at the Sir Kashim Ibrahim Government House stated that the increase, though painful, was necessary. A statement later issued stressed that: “It is the only way that the institution can stay afloat. We understand the pain; we are also pained but sometimes, some decisions are taken for the betterment of the generality of the people.”

    As the students’ protests persisted, the school management suspended academic activities for undergraduate studies and shut down the school indefinitely. However, to make his government’s position clear, on the 17th of June 2020, during a live media chat in Hausa, Governor Nasir El-Rufai claimed there was nowhere in the world where university or polytechnic education is free.

    While discussing the impasse with the students of KASU and explaining that his administration offers free education from primary to secondary school, El-Rufai in the 1hrs 58 minutes chat with selected radio stations which was streamed live on Facebook said: “Education in the university or polytechnic, all around the world, there is no where you can get it for free.”

    Verification

    This reporter conducted a keyword search using the Google search engine to research countries that offer free tertiary education for their citizens. Some of the common countries that consistently popped up as offering free tertiary education for their citizens include; Germany, Brazil, Greece Austria, Czech Republic, Norway and France.

    However, it is not clear how free these countries make tertiary education for their citizens as some of the countries still demand very low tuition fees while others demand semester and registration fees.  

    The reporter also sampled some rich countries around the world and found that countries like Brunei Darrusalam and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) offer free education up to tertiary level for their citizens.

    Brunei is a small country on the South China sea that borders Malaysia on the same island as Borneo and part of Indonesia. The country has enjoyed a tax-free policy since it gained independence from British rule in 1984 and financially supports a free education system for citizens throughout all levels of education. It is said that because of the country’s small population of 441, 660, most of its teachers are emigrants from Britain, Australia, or neighboring countries in Asia.

    Screenshot from an online resource material that shows that tertiary education is free for citizens on Brunei Darussalam. 

    Based on the country’s Ministry of Education website there are only four universities in the country. They  include; Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD), UniversitiTeknologi Brunei (ITB), Universiti Islam Sultan Sharif Ali (UNISSA) and Politeknik Brunei. 

    On the embassy website of the  United Arab Emirates  for Washington DC, the UAE clearly states that it is a country that places high priority on education which is why the literacy rate for both genders stands at 95 percent in the country. The UAE prides itself as home to a wide range of public and private universities and offers UAE citizens free education at government institutions.

    Screenshot of the UAE embassy website in Washington DC

    The website states that: “UAE citizens can attend government institutions free of charge, and the UAE has one of the highest application participation rates in the world. Ninety-five percent of all girls and 80 percent of boys enrolled in the final year of secondary school apply for admission to a higher education institution.”

    Screenshot UAE embassy website showing higher education is free for UAE citizens. 

    Conclusion

    Governor Nasir El-Rufai’s claim that no country in the world offers free university or polytechnic education is untrue as online resource materials contradict the governor’s claim. 

    The researcher produced this Fact check per the Dubawa 2020 Fellowship partnership with Daily Trust newspapers to facilitate the ethos of truth in journalism and enhance media literacy in the country. 

  • Why Governors can’t borrow N17trn from pension fund

    The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) recently disclosed that it had asked President Muhammadu Buhari to instruct the Director-General and Board of the National Pension Commission (PenCom) to stop the 36 state governors from borrowing and/or withdrawing N17 trillion from the pension funds for infrastructural development.

    Tweeting on its twitter handle, @SERAPNigeria, the advocacy organisation said, “The governors last week reportedly proposed to borrow around N17trn from the pension funds after receiving a briefing from Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, Chairman of the National Economic Council Ad Hoc Committee on Leveraging Portion of Accumulated Pension Funds.”

    Urging the president to stop the proposed borrowing, SERAP said it would lead to serious losses of retirement savings of millions of Nigerians.

    SERAP’s tweet on the planned borrowing from pension fund

    Similarly, the Nigeria Union of Pensioners (NUP) has kicked against the plan to borrow from the pension fund, noting that the government has no authority over the money and should, therefore, not tamper with it.

    NUP’s Head of Information, Bunmi Ogunkolade, said the governors have no authority over the money as it does not belong to them.

    “How can they approve a proposal to borrow part of the workers’ pensions, which many of them (governors) are not contributing to? Do you know that many of the states are not paying the contributory pension?” he queried.

    Meanwhile, checks show that governors cannot borrow the said N17 trillion for several reasons.

    To start with, the entire pension fund and assets under the Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS) is not up to N17 trillion. 

    Data from the National Pension Commission showed that as at August 31, 2020, the entire pension assets under the management of Pension Fund Administors (PFAs) was N11.35 trillion, being N5.65 trillion less than the N17 trillion. 

    In any case, even if the nation’s total pension assets is more than N17 trillion, the Pension Reform Act (PRA), 2014 would not allow the governors to withdraw or borrow the said fund.

    Section 89, subsection 1, paragraph C of the PRA, 2014, provides that a PFA shall not “apply any pension fund assets under its management by way of loans and credits or as collateral for any loan taken by a holder of a retirement savings account or any person whatsoever.”  

    This simply means that governments at Federal, States and Local levels can only access pension fund assets through investments made by the PFAs in Treasury Bills issued by the Central Bank of Nigeria or Bonds (including Sukuk) approved by the Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) and other relevant Institutions. 

    Section 2, subsection 6 of the 2019 Regulation on Investment of Pension Fund Assets issued by PenCom provides that “A PFA shall not engage in borrowing or lending of pension fund assets.” 

    The PRA 2014 and the 2019 Regulation on Investment of Pension Funds clearly stipulate the allowable financial instruments in which pension fund assets can be invested and these are Equities; Federal Government Securities; State/Local Government Bonds; Corporate Debt Securities; Money Market Instruments; Open/Closed-end Funds; Infrastructure Bonds & Funds; Private Equity Funds and any securities/instruments that may be approved by PenCom, from time to time.

    In any case, even if the governors hide under state securities to access pension funds for infrastructure development, they will still not be able to make PFAs invest in them because most of the states do not comply with the CPS.

    Section 90 (1) of the PRA, 2014 empowers PenCom to “by regulations, impose additional restrictions on investments by Pension Fund Administrators with the object of protecting the interest of the beneficiaries of the Retirement Savings Accounts.”

    In view of the above provision of the law, Section 2, subsection 8 of the PenCom’s 2019 Regulation on Investment of Pension Funds states that “Pension fund assets shall only be invested in bonds, Sukuk or other debt instruments issued by eligible State/Local Governments and Corporate Entities that are fully implementing the Contributory Pension Scheme.”

    “Eligible States and Local Governments” or “Eligible Listed or Corporate Entities” mean entities that are fully implementing the CPS, as confirmed by the Commission on its website. 

    This regulation ensures that PFAs do not invest in the securities of states yet to fully comply with the CPS. 

    Data sourced from PenCom show that only 25 states have enacted laws on CPS, out of which only 10 states have started remitting employer and employee pension contributions. 

    The low compliance with the CPS at sub-national levels may not be unconnected to the low investments by PFAs in state securities.

    For instance, PenCom report shows that as at August 31, 2020, only N148.13 billion pension fund has been invested in state securities, translating to merely 1.31 percent of the total pension assets of 11.35 percent.

    On the other hand, the Federal Government’s considerable compliance level with the CPS, may not be unconnected to why PFAs invested N7.52 trillion in its bonds and treasury bills, translating to 66.27 percent of the total pension funds.

    It is important to note that such investments are not loans as the PFAs can divest from such investments at any time, have limitations on the percentage of pension funds to be invested in each security, and only invest in them from expert analysis based on projected returns on investment and safety of the funds. 

    Meanwhile, state governors, whose states have fully complied with CPS, can explore the option of the Investment Regulations issued by PenCom, which allow indirect investment of pension funds in infrastructure through Infrastructure Funds or Bonds. 

    The Director General of PenCom, Aisha Dahir-Umar, said the Commission recognises the need for channeling pension funds towards economic development through safe and viable investment outlets. 

    The PenCom boss said “there are limited Infrastructure Bonds and Funds available for pension funds to invest. It is expected that PFAs would continue to make pension funds available for infrastructure financing as long as the products offered are viable bankable and meet the requirements of the Regulation.”

    She said as much as PenCom is desirous of encouraging pension fund investments in infrastructure g, the Commission would not compromise on the major objectives of pension fund investments, which are safety of the assets and maintenance of fair (real) returns on investments.

    Similarly, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Shamshuna Ahmed, recently dispelled rumours of government borrowing from pension funds.

    Fielding questions when she met with capital market stakeholders this year in Lagos during a visit to the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE), Mrs Ahmed said, “we won’t borrow from pension fund assets. Pension funds are very sensitive, so we have to be careful.” 

    Conclusion

    In sum, available data, pension legislation and regulations show that state governors cannot take a loan of N17 trillion from pension assets. The country’s total pension assets are far below the sum some governors are hoping to borrow from. Besides, the Pension Act forbids such borrowing. At best, if governors need pension funds to fix infrastructure in their respective states, they need to domesticate the CPS, fully comply with the contributory scheme, work with financial experts to develop investible infrastructure bonds and other instruments, and then leave the final decision to PFAs on whether such securities are profitable and safe enough for pension funds to be invested in them. 

    The researcher produced this fact-check per the Dubawa 2020 Fellowship partnership with Daily Trust to facilitate the ethos of “truth” in journalism and enhance media literacy in the country. 

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