•‘NSITF board made no recommendations on alleged infractions’
Adelani Adepegba and Ife Ogunfuwa
The embattled former management of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund has said all training, contracts and rehabilitation it carried out received the approvals of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment and the National Assembly.
Ngige had last week suspended the NSITF Managing Director, Adebayo Somefun and some members of his executive for allegedly lavishing “N3.4bn on non-existent staff training split into about 196 different consultancy contracts in order to evade the Ministerial Tenders Board and Federal Executive Council approvals.”
Ngige also accused the management of financial infractions and procurement breaches.
But responding to the allegations, the NSITF management, in a statement in Abuja on Sunday, insisted that the training referred to by the minister was budgeted for in 2017, 2018 and 2019 appropriations for over 5,000 staff nationwide.
It also explained that the Procurement Planning Committee meetings held for the procurement of goods, works and services to commence the procurement activities.
However, Ngige, in his response, directed the management team to tender their evidence before the Joint Board and Audit Investigative Panel set up to look into the financial and procurement breaches as well as gross misconduct in the NSITF for periods of 2016 to date.
“They should go to the panel and show all those things, and if they are correct, the panel will exonerate them,” the minister said.
The statement by the suspended NSITF management read, “There was no contract splitting as claimed by the minister. The training referred to were budgeted for in the year 2017, 2018 and 2019 appropriations for over 5,000 staff nationwide, and Procurement Planning Committee Meetings were held for the procurement of goods, works and services to commence the procurement activities.
“All these details were included in the budget for these years, taken for budget defence in the supervising ministry, officially endorsed by the minister himself, approved and transmitted to the National Assembly for necessary approval during the budget defences for these years.”
The ex-management members also faulted the allegations that they carried out the construction of 14 zonal offices running into billions of naira without board or ministerial approval.
The statement added, “We hereby seek that due process be followed and the suspended staff should be allowed to return to their offices to prepare their defence to all allegations against them.
“There are already reports that some of the documents needed to defend the allegations are being carted away from the office. Consequently, it would be appreciated if the minister would comply with the SGF Circular Ref No. SGF/OP/I.S.3/T/163 dated 19th May 2020.”
Meanwhile, Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association has said the board of the NSITF did not make any recommendations to the Ministry of Labour and Employment on the allegations of financial infractions levelled against the fund’s management.
The Director-General of NECA, Dr Timothy Olawale, in a statement on Sunday, asked the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, not to mislead the public, saying due process was not followed before the directors and workers of the NSITF were suspended.
He, however, said that NECA was not against the investigation of the management of the fund.
Olawale said, “We wish to clarify that there was no deliberation at any time at the board on matters bordering on alleged financial infractions by the management.
“These issues were never brought up, referred to the board or tabled for consideration, not to talk of any correspondence from the board to the honourable minister for actions.
“The records are there for verification and members of the board including representatives of the Nigeria Labour Congress and the Central Bank of Nigeria on the board are also alive to verify the truth.”
Olawale noted that representatives of NECA on the board who were alleged by the minister to be complicit to financial infractions were currently a subject of litigation in the courts.