The presidency yesterday alleged that N48 billion of the N62 billion contributions to Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) was mismanaged by former members of the board between 2012 and 2015.
This is coming as President Muhammadu Buhari at the weekend appointed ex-labour leader, Chief Frank Kokori, as the Chairman of the board of Michael Imoudu National Institute for Labour Studies (MINILS) to end festering feud between the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige.
Buhari had initially appointed Kokori to chair the board of NSITF, but Ngige was not comfortable with Kokori’s appointment and consequently recommended Austin Enejamo-Isire to the president for approval to head the board.
Ngige said his decision to oppose Kokori’s appointment was in compliance with Section 4(a) of the NSITF Act, which he said prohibited the appointment of any person with interest in labour matters to chair the board.
A statement issued yesterday by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, said Buhari appointed Kokori to head the board, acting on the recommendation of Ngige.
Adesina who said Buhari had tremendous respect for Kokori, a staunch ex-labour leader, said Ngige would swear in members of the Governing Board of NSITF today (Monday) at the Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa.
Kokori and the NLC have been at loggerheads with Ngige in the past few months over the vehement refusal of the minister to swear in the former Chairman of National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas (NUPENG) as the chairman of the board of NSITF.
The conflict climaxed last week when the NLC president, Ayuba Wabba, led protesters to picket the private residence of Ngige with two tankers deployed to block the entrance of his house.
However, Adesina who said the presidency condemned the action of the NLC, disclosed that efforts were currently being made to reconcile both the minister and the leaders of NLC, adding that prevalent corruption in NSITF from 2012 – 2015 led to the mismanagement of N48 billion out of the total N62 billion contributions during the period.
He said the face-off between NLC and Niggie over the appointment of the chairman of the board of NSITF necessitated explanations by the presidency.
“Following the disagreement between the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment and the leadership of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) over the appointment of the chairman of the board of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF), the Presidency wishes to clarify as follows:
“That the NSITF is a hundred per cent, Federal Government of Nigeria owned insurance parastatal, under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, designed for the role of ensuring workers (employees) in the public and private sectors. The organization is empowered by law to implement the Employee Compensation Act (ECA) 2010 with a mandate to ensure workers and pay them compensation for accidents, deaths and injuries in the course of work.
“The NSITF was bedevilled and riddled with corruption between 2012 – 2015, which resulted in a colossal loss and mismanagement of about N48 billion out of the total N62 billion contributions during the said period. These were contributions by the Employers – viz government and the private sector for payment of compensation to workers and even to Employers for loss of man-hours by their workers. This fraud has been investigated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the last Chairman and some members of the former board and some officials of the NSITF are presently being prosecuted by the EFCC.
“All actions taken by the Honourable Minister of Labour and Employment towards the resuscitation and repositioning of this ailing agency, including the Administrative Panel of Inquiry into the affairs of NSITF and the suspension of the inauguration of the board in 2018 were part of the special work plan approved for the Honourable Minister by Mr President.
“The appointment of the Chairman of this board, which is in consonance with Sec. 4(a) of the NSITF Act CAP N88 of 2004 was also approved by Mr President since 23rd July 2018 on the recommendation of the Hon. Minister. Mr. Austin Enejamo-Isire, a Chartered Accountant, Fellow, Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) and renowned Insurance expert, Senior Member, Chartered Institute of Insurance of Nigeria (CIIN), Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN) and Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria (CITN) was approved by Mr. President for this position. Also approved by Mr President were the Managing Director and three Executive Directors who had assumed duties since 18 April 2017.
“Others also approved as Non-Executive Directors are two (2) members to represent the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), two members to represent the Nigerian Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA) and one (1) member each to represent the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment. Members of this board are to be formally inaugurated at 9 a.m. on Monday, May 13, 2019, by the Hon. Minister of Labour and Employment at the Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, Aso Rock, Abuja,” he said.
NLC Vows to Go Ahead with Demonstration against Ngige
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has said that it will go on with the planned protest in Abuja on Monday despite the explanation given by the Presidency on reasons for the delay in inaugurating the board of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund.
The President of the NLC, Ayuba Wabba who spoke in a telephone interview yesterday said Monday’s protest will be to show labour’s displeasure over the alleged abridgement of worker’s right to picketing by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige.
“The protest for tomorrow is essentially about Ngige’s trying to bridge the rights of workers to protest and also sending thugs to attack workers,” he said.
Wabba said the statement by the presidency expressing support for the Minister’s delay to inaugurate the NSITF’s board was coming late.
“It is most unfortunate, we expected that this response should have come earlier than now. In fact, we would not have wasted our energy in the fighting.
“So clearly speaking this is our position and it is very late and why should only this labour market institution now be singled out and also received such a treatment that everyone in one country or the other knows such a thing is going on.
“The issue has dragged on for two and a half years. The response is certainly coming late. We ought to have known the position of the government.
“But you know after two and half years it is coming late because these are the issues we have written severally, we have campaigned severally about it and in all our meetings, including the delegates conference, we have talked about it,” he said.
Wabba also disagreed with federal government’s position that NSITF is essentially a government-own establishment, saying the reason labour has two statutory members and NECA has two representatives on its board is that it is a labour market institution.