The Presidency has intervened in the leadership crisis of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) which has pitched the Nigeria Labour Union (NLC) against the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige.
The Presidency yesterday recognised the appointment of Mr. Austin Enejamo-Isire, a Chartered Accountant, as the rightful chairman of NSITF.
It noted that Comrade Frank Kokori was pencilled down for the headship of Labour Training Institute, said a statement by President Muhammadu Buhari’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina.
The Presidency also expressed deep concern and regrets over the turn of events that culminated in a skirmish at the private home of the minister in Abuja, the nation’s capital.
Condemning the picketing of the minister’s home, the Presidency also appealed for calm, saying efforts were on to resolve the issue.
The statement reads: “Following the disagreement between the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment and the leadership of the Nigeria 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 100 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 insuring workers (employees) in the public and private sectors. The organisation is empowered by law to implement the Employee Compensation Act (ECA) 2010 with mandate to insure 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 and 2015, which resulted in a colossal loss and mismanagement of about N48 billion out of the total N62 billion contributions during the 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 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 Section 4(a) of the NSITF Act CAP N88 of 2004, was also approved by Mr. President since July 23, 2018, on the recommendation of the 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 April 18, 2017.
“Others also approved as non-executive directors are: two members to represent the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), two members to represent the Nigerian Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA) and one member each to represent the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) 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 (today) by the Minister of Labour and Employment at the Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, Aso Rock, Abuja.
“Comrade Frank Kokori, our respected veteran labour leader, has Mr. President’s immense respect and has also been appointed on the recommendation of the Minister of Labour and Employment to chair the board of Michael Imoudu National Institute for Labour Studies (MINILS), a diploma-awarding labour institution…”
Also, the NLC last night dismissed claims by the Presidency that the NSITF is a 100 per cent Federal Government establishment.
The umbrella labour union said the response of the Presidency to the crisis between labour and the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngigie, over the board of the fund was coming late.
Reacting to a statement by the Special Adviser (SA) to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, NLC President Ayuba Wabba blamed the government for the prolonged controversy on the matter.
The union leader said if the government had offered its position earlier, labour would not have wasted its time.
In a telephone interview, he said: “The issue has dragged on for two and a half years and the response is certainly coming late. We ought to have known the position of government. But you know after two and a half years, it is coming late because these are the issues we have written severally on; we have campaigned severally about it and in all our meetings, including the delegates’ conference, we have talked about it.
“One: it is about inaugurating the board because all the Federal Government board of parastatals were inaugurated more than two years ago. But this particular board was singled out, and inauguration has not taken place and somebody has continued to run the place as a sole administrator, appointing people and also exercising the powers of the board. Nowhere in the Act has such a power been given to one person. That is why we have been so concerned.
“For instance, overnight he employed over 300 people without advertisement and most of them from his village. Nowhere has such power been granted to anybody. This is what we have raised and that is why the first agitation was about inaugurating the board.
“The issue of Frank Kokori was something that was introduced much later because in the first place, we were not even aware that Kokori was appointed as the chairman of the board. It is the same minister that informed us after inviting Kokori on various occasions.”