The Federal Ministry of 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 made this claim in a letter to the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator (Dr) Chris Ngige and signed by its Director General, Timothy Olawale, which 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.
But the Labour Ministry in a statement signed the Deputy Director, Press and Publicity, Charles Akpan, debunked NECA’s claim.
The Ministry stated unequivocally that the removal of the NSITF management followed due process as the Federal Government owns the parastatal 100 per cent.
Akpan insisted that the Minister of Labour and Employment acted in line with the Constitution, Public Service Rules and NSITF Act.
He explained that the NSITF Act empowers the minister to recommend fit and proper persons to Mr President for appointment for the post of chairman, managing director and three executive directors to manage the day-to-day affairs of the agency.
He said that the president on the recommendation of the minister would discipline, suspend or even remove the management totally, depending on the circumstances.
He reaffirmed that the suspension of the management became imperative after 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 totalling 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,” Akpan said.
He maintained that the ministry operated within the law in suspending NSITF management and assured NECA that the board would be expected to play its role in this matter with its members purged of their already jaundiced stand.
His words: “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.
“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 cahoots 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 empower the minister to recommend fit and proper person to Mr President for appointment for the post of chairman, managing director and the three executive directors for the day-to-day management of the agency.”
Akpan recalled that these breaches in question started since 2016 to 2019 and were not limited to 2018/2019 as NECA claimed.
“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 pointed out.