Buhari approved suspension of top NSITF management

• SGF conveyed Presidential approval - Labour Ministry

Against the claims by the sacked top management of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) and the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA), President Muhammadu Buhari, actually approved the immediate suspension of the NSITF Managing Director, Adebayo Somefun, the three executive directors and eight top management staff, Tribune Online reports.

Confirming the approval on Saturday, the Deputy Director, Press and Publicity in the Federal Ministry of Labour,and Employment, Mr. Charles Akpan said the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, conveyed the Presidential approval to the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige for full implementation.

In realisation of the approval from the Presidency, Tribune Online learnt that the suspended management, who had planned to hold a press conference on Friday to tackle their alleged illegal suspension by the minister called off the conference.

The management had also on Thursday issued an unsigned statement against their suspension and claimed that President Buhari did not suspend them, but that the minister overreached himself.

The statement titled: “Buhari Did Not Sack NSITF Management, Minister Overreached Himself,” said: “The Management of NSITF read the press release published by some media outfits that the President has suspended the management of NSITF and announced same.

“We wish to state that President Muhammadu Buhari has not suspended the management of NSITF and did not make such an announcement. The person mentioned in the media report is not the staff of the President.”

Also, NECA who has a representative on the board of NSITF, in a letter to the minister said the suspension of the management of NSITF violated the disciplinary procedure approved by the President.

However, Tribune Online also learnt that the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), who is also a vital stakeholder with two representatives on the board of NSITF, through its President, Comrade Ayuba Wabba sought an explanation on the process leading to their suspension, and was satisfied that it followed a due process.

In a swift response, a statement signed by the Deputy Director Press and Publicity in the ministry, Mr Charles Akpan, said due process was followed in the suspension of the NSITF management.

He dismissed the claims by the NECA that the suspension violated the disciplinary procedure approved by the President.

He said: “NECA does not have the full facts nor do they know that the Secretary to Federal Government (SGF) conveyed the Presidential approval to the Minister of Labour and Employment for full implementation.”

According to Mr. Akpabio: “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 cahoot with the two NECA representatives, Managing Director (MD) and officials looted N48 billion from the Fund and are being tried as of date by the EFCC.”

He stated unequivocally that the removal of the NSITF management followed due process, as the Federal Government owned the parastatal hundred per cent.

Akpan insisted that the Minister of Labour and Employment acted in line with the Constitution, Public Service Rules and NSITF Act.

He explained that the NSITF Act empowers the Minister to recommend fit and proper persons to Mr President for an appointment for the post of chairman, Managing Director and three Executive Directors to manage the day to day affairs of the agency.

He reaffirmed that the suspension of the management became imperative after the 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.

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He said: “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.”

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.

Meanwhile, Tribune Online also learnt that the Chairman of the Board on NSITF, Mr Austin Enejamo-Isire, was not happy the way Mr Somefun led management was running the Fund, and actually formally reported to the minister.

The minister, it was gathered took the case to the SGF and President Buhari, who gave the approval for the suspension of the management based on the evidence and facts presented before him.

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