By Appolos Christian
The Federal Ministry of the f Labour and Employment has dismissed claims by the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association that the suspension of the management of Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) violated the disciplinary procedure approved by the President.
NECA in a letter to the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, and signed by its Director-General, Timothy Olawale claimed that due process was not followed in the suspension of management of the fund.
In the said letter, Olawale referred to the presidential procedure released by the Secretary to Government of the Federation, put in place to stem the arbitrary removal of Chief Executives of government, and to ensure stability in the system to back his argument.
But the Labour Ministry in a statement signed the Deputy Director, Press, and Publicity, Charles Akpan, debunked Olawale’s claim, insisting that the removal followed due process, as the Federal Government hundred percent owned the parastatal.
The statement said the Minister acted in line with the Constitution, Public Service Rules, and NSITF Act.
According to him, the NSITF Act empowers the Minister to recommend fit and proper persons to Mr. President for an appointment for the post of chairman, Managing Director, and three Executive Directors to manage the day to day affairs of the agency.
He reaffirmed that the suspension of the management became imperative after the preliminary investigation on allegations of corruption against the NSITF top officials, established prima facie infractions on the extant financial regulations and procurement Act, and other acts of gross misconduct.
Some of the infractions uncovered include N3.4 billion squandered on non-existent staff training split into about 196 different consultancy contracts in order to evade the Ministerial Tenders Board and Federal Executive Council, FEC, approval. Non-existent unexecuted N2.3 billion was documented and paid while N1.1 billion is awaiting payment without any job done, all totaling N3.4 billion.
“Same goes for projects of construction of 14 Zonal/ Regional offices in 14 states running into billions of naira- a policy issue being done without Board or Ministerial knowledge not to talk of Approval. This was done in 2019 by the MD and his three-man Executive. Some of the projects are duplications and hence waste of funds, yet you are in the Board supposedly supervising!” the Ministry replied NECA.
The statement maintained that the Ministry operated within the law in suspending NSITF management and assured NECA that the Board would be expected to play her role in this matter with her members purged of their already jaundiced stand.
According to the spokesman of the Ministry, “NECA does not have the full facts nor do they know that the Secretary to Federal Government, SGF, conveyed the Presidential approval to the Hon. Minister of Labour and Employment for full implementation.”
He said, “If a Minister observes there are financial breaches earlier reported and gross misconduct he does not need to go back to a Board that has been complaining to the same Minister.
“We hope that NECA does not expect the Minister to fold his hands like his predecessor who watched helplessly when the last Board Chair in cahoot with the two NECA representatives, MD and officials looted N48 billion from the Fund and are being tried as of date by the EFCC
“NECA leadership should have been more restrained and responsive to the mantra of this administration like their NLC counterparts as the NSITF is a Federal Government Parastatal operating within the realm of the Constitution, Public Service rules and the NSITF Act, which empowers the Minister to recommend the fit and proper person to Mr. President for an appointment for the post of Chairman, Managing Director and the three Executive Directors for the day to day management of the agency.”
He recalled that these breaches in question started from 2016 to 2019 and were not limited to 2018/2019 as NECA Claimed.
He added that “Whilst the Ministry does not intend to go into a media altercation with a Social partner, NECA, the DG does well to emulate the NLC who liaised with the Ministry to be adequately briefed and were satisfied after the briefing, more so when they had also received brief from their person on the Board.”
He lamented Olawale as representative of NECA on the Board sat there when the suspended MD of NSITF and some members of his Executive lavished N3.4 billion on non-existent Staff training split into about 196 different consultancy contracts in order to evade the Ministerial tenders Board and Federal Executive Council, FEC, approvals.