SUNDAY ODE, Abuja
Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige on Monday inaugurated the management board of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF).
The inauguration of the board was in spite of protests by the organised labour against the dropping of Chief Frank Kokori who was earlier named as its chairman.
The inauguration which held at the Presidential villa, Abuja, amidst tight security, however, afforded Ngige the opportunity to explain why he settled for the appointment of Austin Enejamo-Isire, a Chartered Accountant as board chairman of the employees compensation agency.
He said his appointment was ratified by the federal government to launch further probe into the financial impropriety that trailed the agency, especially to unmask those fingered by an administrative panel of enquiry in mismanagement of N48billion between 2012 and 2015.
Ngige revealed that 37 exotic houses are under forfeiture, while the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) were on the trail of past directors, some of whom had voluntarily returned monies to government coffers.
Also justifying why he swopped Frank Kokori, a former General Secretary of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers(NUPENG) for Enejamo-Isire, Ngige said on one of such occasion under the previous board, N5billion was withdrawn from the agency’s account without audit trial or voucher.
The minister told the gathering, “Though this Board is being inaugurated much later than its contemporaries, the NSITF is however better set to welcome a new Board than it was at the time when the other Boards of the Ministry were inaugurated.
“As you all may be aware, the last Board and Management of the NSITF left negative trails inimical to development and progress for both the human and infrastructural components of the Agency. The criminal investigations by the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) and the subsequent Administrative Panel of Enquiry investigations revealed financial atrocities that would go down the annals of history of the NSITF as shameful and monstrous.
“At a time, the national dailies and social media were agog with the news of corruption and deep sleaze by some members of the previous Board in collusion with some top Management Staff of the Agency who aided and abetted the looting of both Government and Private Sector Funds of about N48 Billion from the N62 Billion contributions between 2012 – 2015 of the NSITF.
“This resulted in about four (4) Board Members including the last Chairman being arraigned and charged to court by the EFCC. Some monies have been paid back to Government Treasury and about 37 Houses are now under forfeiture.
“The Administrative Panel report also indicted some Board members and NSITF Management Officers. The affected Officers have now been shown the way out, and many more indicted Officers by the Auditor General’s Periodic Report on the NSITF will soon be made to refund the monies illegally taken from the Fund. The Auditor General of the Federation (AUGF) had to be requested by us in 2017 when it became clear that there was no Audited Account for the place for five (5) years, past to undertake the Constitutional periodic check”.
He warned the new board against fixing remuneration for themselves, like the previous board did, adding that they are not expected to interfere in the day-to-day running of the fund.
Aside the board chairman, whose appointment was ratified by the presidency, on the recommendation by the Labour minister, other members of the board were drawn from the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association; Nigeria Labour Congress, one representative each from the federal Ministry of Labour & Employment; and Central Bank.
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