The Federal Government said due process was followed in the suspension of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) management.
Mr Charles Akpan, the Deputy Director, Press and Publicity in the Ministry of Labour and Employment, said this in a statement on Saturday in Abuja.
Akpan debunked claims by the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association, NECA, that the suspension of the management of NSITF violated the disciplinary procedure approved by the president.
It would be recalled that NECA made the claim in a letter signed by it’s Director-General, Mr Timothy Olawale, and addressed to the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige.
In the said letter, Olawale 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 and to ensure stability in the system.
Akpan however explained that the removal of the NSITF management followed due process, as the Federal Government hundred per cent owned the parastatal.
He insisted that the minister of Labour and Employment acted in line with the Constitution, Public Service Rules and NSITF Act.
He therefore insisted 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.
Akpan 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.
According to him, 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,” he said.
The statement maintained that the ministry operated within the law in suspending NSITF management and assured NECA that the Board would be expected to play her role in this matter with her members purged of their already jaundiced stand.
The spokesman added that NECA did not have the full facts nor did they know that the SGF conveyed the presidential approval to the Minister of Labour and Employment for full implementation.
He said: “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 Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) counterparts as the NSITF is a Federal Government Parastatal operating within the realm of the Constitution, Public Service rules.
“The NSITF Act, empowers 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,” he said.
He also noted that the breaches in question started since 2016 to 2019 and were not limited to 2018/2019 as NECA claimed.
Akpan added that the ministry did not intend to go into a media altercation with a social partner.
He called on NECA and the director-general to emulate the NLC which liaised with the ministry to be adequately briefed and were satisfied after the briefing, moreso when they had also received brief from their person on the board.
He stressed that Olawale as representative of NECA on the board was there when the suspended MD of NSITF and some members of his Executive lavished N3.4 billion on non-existent Staff training split into about 196 different consultancy contracts in order to evade the Ministerial tenders Board and FEC approvals.
“The President on recommendation of the minister also have powers to discipline, suspend or even remove totally, depending on the circumstances of each situation,” Akpan stated.