The Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige is to appear today before the joint Senate Committee on Labour and the House Committee on Labour, over alleged skewed and lopsided appointment of 131 new workers at the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF).
The joint committee had earlier summoned the acting Managing Director of the NSITF, Mr Ismaila Agaka on the nature of the recent recruitment carried out in the agency, after which the minister was held responsible for the lopsided exercise.
To this end, the joint committee had summoned Chris Ngige to appear along with Mr Agaka and the Chairman of the Federal Character Commission, Shettima Bukar-Abba, today.
Their invitation was necessitated by the current controversy and crisis trailing the recruitment, which, according to them, defiled all common sense and logic, and in flagrant disobey of the law of the land.
Many stakeholders, which included the Senate Committee on Labour and the House Committee on Labour have condemned the lopsided and skewed recruitment and decried it as high level displaying of nepotism, against the law of the land.
They regretted that major weakness of Nigerian political gladiators and elites at the detriment of millions other Nigerian masses, is high level Nepotism, favoritism and tribalism by Nigerian political office holders.
Incidentally, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, who decried the previous recruitment in the agency when he resumed as the minister, was alleged to have masterminded and supervised the recent lopsided recruitment.
The NSITF is a parastatal under the Ministry of Labour and Employment and genuinely or otherwise, Ngige when he was newly appointed minister lambasted the previous management of the NSITF and the former President Goodluck Jonathan’s board, who according to him, embarked on a “market place recruitment,” in NSITF, without due process and without considering the number of workers needed.
In short, Ngige blamed them for recruiting more than what was needed without adequate provisions for offices and other office requirements to perform optimally.
However, in less than six months after that condemnation, the minister, without a substantive board in place has led the NSITF to embark on secret recruitment of about 131 workers, in a more unlawful and illegal way.
According to a source, the last recruitment which the minister condemned was well known to Nigerians, people were aware of it across the country, but the recent recruitment conducted under Ngige as a minister was a clear departure from that, as it was carried out in secret even without the knowledge of major players in the sector.
The source also lamented that people were recruited to the top management level, thus filling unavailable positions at the top and blocking old staff from getting promotion if the need arises.
“It was very doubtful if the position filled were advertised in popular national dailies and across the geopolitical zones of the country as required. People don’t know when the interview took place and who conducted it. The recruitment is the worst you can talk about. If journalists like you, who cover labour and this parastatals for year were not aware, how do you explain that,” he added.
The recent recruitment, according to the source was not only done to insult the sensibility of ordinary Nigerians but President Muhammadu Buhari himself and the Senate President, Bukola Saraki.
While Ngige allotted 45 slots out of about 131 recruited to his state, Anambra, he graciously gave Katsina, President Buhari’s state one slot and none at all to the Senate President state, Kwara.
Already the Senate and House of Representatives Joint Committee on Employment, Labour and Productivity, has summoned the Minister, Chris Ngige, to appear before it over the skewed recruitment.
At a meeting held with managements of the NSITF last week, the joint committee accused the minister of impunity and gross abuse of office, while in its resolution cancelled the employment exercise.
The recruitment was said to have been undertaken by the ministry between July and September.
Also summoned to appear with Ngige on Tuesday (today) is the Acting Managing Director of the NSITF, Ismaila Agaka and the chairman of the Federal Character Commission, Shettima Bukar-Abba.
Chairman of the Joint Committee, Senator Suleiman Nazif, lamented the skewed recruitment and noted that it was in violation of the federal character principle.
According to Senator Nazif, “Employment is of paramount important and the committee would ensure that employment is done in a manner to reflect the principles of federal character. I think there’s something going on in NSITF that no one is willing to talk about.
“It is clear that the Minister, Chris Ngige, is responsible for this irregularities, impunity and anomalies, resulting in gross abuse of his office, and we’ll take action on it.”
Disturbed by the development, the joint committee has also sent the Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Senator Ita Enang, to report the issue to President Buhari and brief the President accordingly.
According to the joint committee chairman, “the minister’s state, Anambra, had 44 slots out of the 131 available, with some states such as Katsina and Kwara getting one and none, respectively.
“We want you, Senator Ita Enang, to inform the President about it, because he’s trying to put this committee in trouble. Anambra has 45, while other states have two or even one.”
Senator Enang has also taken the responsibility upon himself to brief President Buhari, and stressed the need to strictly comply with the principles of federal character.
“Let me just say that I just received this document this morning. I will relate back with the executive on this and we will speak with the committee, and make a representation, and where we’ve gone wrong we will address it,” he said.