By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
ABUJA—MINISTER of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, has told National Chairman of All Progressives Congress, APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, that the delay in the inauguration of the board of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Funds, NSITF, was as a result of the alleged uncovered fraud of over N40 billion by the previous board.
Oshiomhole and Ngige
It was gathered that the minister has faced immense pressure to inaugurate the NSITF Governing Board, despite the allegation of fraud allegedly perpetuated by the past board of the Funds.
Recall that last week, the Administrative Probe Panel set up to look into the finances of the NSITF submitted its report, which discovered that over N40 billion was unaccounted for.
National Chairman of APC had in a letter to the minister, implored him to make haste and inaugurate all the governing boards of the agencies and parastatals under the Labour Ministry.
But Senator Ngige in his reply, said he had inaugurated three boards in the ministry but was not in a hurry to inaugurate that of NSITF because of the alleged humongous fraud discovered by the probe panel.
In his letter to the APC Chairman, Ngige said: “First, it is not true that I did refuse/neglect to inaugurate members of the re-constituted Boards of Parastatals and Agencies under the supervision of my Ministry as alleged in your letter.”
‘’Boards of the latter three agencies have been re-constituted and members were inaugurated on March 8, 2018, in conformity with a Presidential directive. All the three Boards are currently operational.
“The only agency left out was the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund, NSITF which, before the directive, had been enmeshed in major issues of corruption involving about N48billion, comprising Federal Government and Employers’ contributions to the Employees’ Compensation Fund plus some non-remitted PAYE taxes, which were carted away through well perfected sleaze operation.
“This resulted in the agency coming under the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, investigation/prosecution of members of the former Board and some of her serving Officials.
“An Administrative and Financial Panel of Enquiry was instituted with a Presidential approval as a follow-up to the criminal investigations. This was followed by a House of Representatives Committee on Labour and Employment probe in March 2018 which is still ongoing, and also in situ.
“Comrade National Chairman, you are aware of this situation and you had broached this issue with me during your campaign period when I visited your campaign office, Due to the fact that a lot of the information available to me as the Minister are classified, I had told you that I will brief you later and at our last meeting during a function on Saturday July 7, 2018, I had sought for an appointment for the next day so I could brief you on the situation.
‘’I am not oblivious of the fact that you are a very interested party in the matter because, having served as chairman of the NSITF Board before the last Board and as a former Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, President, you would be interested in the tripartite colouration of the Board being maintained more so as Labour still remains your base constituency.
“Mr. Chairman, a lot of the classified information from the EFCC, the Auditor General of the Federation’s “spot check” report for an organisation with an account that has not been audited for five years, 2013 – 2017, are not within your purview.
‘’In view of all these damaging reports, I had a Presidential permission not to inaugurate this particular Board at the time we did the others.
“However, I wish to assure you that the Administrative and Financial Panel of Enquiry has just concluded its work and presented it report today. The Board will be in place very soon in order to assist the implementation committee being put in place by the Ministry to effect the various policy recommendations that are aimed at sanitizing the agency and strengthening the very weak Internal Audit System that allowed N5 billion to be taken out of this organisation in one single day without voucher(s)!!
“I am sorry that I will be unable to accede to your “directives” to inaugurate all the Boards within one week as the Ministry had already inaugurated the aforementioned three Boards but will in this case of the NSITF adhere to the “work plan” on the NSITF as approved by Mr. President who is the head of the government of the Federation.
‘’Based on this, be assured that the Board of NSITF will be constituted very soon, at most, before the end of July 2018.”