The Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA), at the weekend, described the suspension of the top management and executive committee of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) as abuse of process.
Calling for caution, NECA’s director-general, Dr. Timothy Olawale, said the suspension by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, failed to respect rules, civil service procedures and the enabling act governing the fund.
“We received with shock the news of the purported suspension of the top management and executive committee of the NSITF on the basis of a prima facie infraction on the Financial Regulation and Procurement Act, apart from other gross misconduct actions. Our shock was premised on the fact that all known decorum, rules of corporate governance and well-publicised disciplinary procedures approved by the President and released by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, which was put in place to stem the arbitrary removal of chief executive officers of government agencies and to ensure stability in the system, were totally disregarded,” he said.
The NECA DG averred that the board of the fund was duly constituted and inaugurated by the Minister of Labour and Employment in line with the enabling act governing the NSITF and activities of the board.
He said, “As such, observed acts of misconduct in the fund ought to have been brought to the knowledge of the board for necessary actions as it unfolded.
“The board, to which the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association and other statutory institutions like the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), etc, are members, was not aware of any of the claims made by the minister as a subject before it.”
Speaking further on the right course of action, Dr. Olawale stated that, in the spirit of appropriateness and respect for the rule of law and directives by the President as contained in government’s Disciplinary Circular released by the SGF, the minister ought to have referred the matter through the Permanent Secretary to the governing board (which is still in existence), for necessary action, in line with the relevant provisions of the establishment act and the principles guiding Chapters 3 and 16 of the Public Service Rules.
He said, “The governing board would then follow due process, issue relevant officers queries requesting explanations on the specific acts complained about, and then forward its findings and recommendations to the honourable minister for further consideration and necessary action.
“It is then that the honourable minister can recommend to the government (the President through the SGF), as the case may be for necessary action. This time-tested and institutionalised procedure was not respected nor acknowledged.”
While urging respect for the principles of corporate governance and the rule of law, Olawale advised that the NSITF should not be run outside the laws that established it.
He said it was the association’s opinion that the purportedly suspended management be allowed to continue their lawful duties and the infractions and every other act of misconduct in the fund be referred to the duly constituted Board for attention and appropriate action, pending the conclusion of the Audit by Bureau of Public Enterprises and the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation.