After weeks of a face-off with the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, has inaugurated the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF), headed by Austin Enajemo-Isire.
As the inauguration was on, the NEC began a nationwide protest against the government choice. The protesters were spotted around the Federal Secretariat housing Ngige’s office.
But Ngige inaugurated the Board headed by the chartered accountant, professional insurance executive, and banker, far away from his office, apparently for fear of labour leaders and protesters who disrupted the event three weeks ago, because their preferred choice, Mr. Frank Kokori, whose name was first thrown up by government, was later dropped.
The inauguration took place at the State House Conference Centre, Presidential Villa.
Recall that when the Labour leaders and protesters paid an early morning visit to Ngige last week, they were beaten, stoned, and chased away by another group sympathetic the Minister.
The Board inaugurated has Mrs. Ijeoma Okoronkwo as Secretary and includes Mr. Olawale Osuolale Timothy, (NECA); Dr Mohammed Yinusa, Mr Waheed Adeyanju, (NLC); Mr Ibrahim Khaleel (NLC); Dr. Ifeoma Anyanwutaku, and Mrs. Dutse Aminu (CBN).
Other are Mr Jasper Azutalam, executive director, (finance), Mr Tijani Suleiman, executive director (admin), Mrs Kemi Nelson, executive director, (operations) and Mr. Ade Bayo Somefun, (managing director and chief executive).
Kokori, who wept weeks ago because he was dropped as head of the NSITF Board, was appointed head of Michael Imoudu National Institute for Labour Studies (MINILS) Board.
On Sunday, the Presidency explained its choice of Austin Enejamo-Isire over Kokori.
Presidential spokesman, Mr. Femi Adesina, in a comprehensive statement explained:
Following the disagreement between the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment and the leadership of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) over the appointment of the Chairman of the board of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF), the Presidency wishes to clarify as follows:
A. That the NSITF is a hundred percent, Federal Government of Nigeria owned insurance parastatal, under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, designed for the role of insuring workers (employees) in the public and private sectors. The organization is empowered by law to implement the Employee Compensation Act (ECA) 2010 with mandate to insure workers and pay them compensation for accidents, deaths and injuries in the course of work.
B. The NSITF was bedevilled and riddled with corruption between 2012 – 2015, which resulted in a colossal loss and mismanagement of about N48 billion out of the total N62 billion contributions during the said period. These were contributions by the Employers – viz government and the private sector for payment of compensation to workers and even to Employers for loss of man-hours by their workers. This fraud has been investigated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the last Chairman and some members of the former board and some officials of the NSITF are presently being prosecuted by the EFCC.
C. All actions taken by the Honourable Minister of Labour and Employment towards the resuscitation and repositioning of this ailing agency, including the Administrative Panel of Inquiry into the affairs of NSITF and the suspension of the inauguration of the board in 2018 were part of the special work plan approved for the Honourable Minister by Mr. President.
D. The appointment of the Chairman of this board, which is in consonance with Sec. 4(a) of the NSITF Act CAP N88 of 2004 was also approved by Mr. President since 23rd July, 2018 on the recommendation of the Hon. Minister. Mr. Austin Enejamo-Isire, a Chartered Accountant, Fellow, Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) and renowned Insurance expert, Senior Member, Chartered Institute of Insurance of Nigeria (CIIN), Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN) and Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria (CITN) was approved by Mr. President for this position. Also approved by Mr. President were the Managing Director and three Executive Directors who had assumed duties since 18 April 2017.
Others also approved as Non-Executive Directors are two (2) members to represent the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), two members to represent the Nigerian Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA) and one (1) member each to represent the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment. Members of this board are to be formally inaugurated at 9 a.m. on Monday, May 13, 2019 by the Hon. Minister of Labour and Employment at the Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, Aso Rock, Abuja.
E. Comrade Frank Kokori , our respected veteran labour leader has Mr. President’s immense respect and has also been appointed on the recommendation of the Hon. Minister of Labour and Employment to chair the board of Michael Imoudu National Institute for Labour Studies (MINILS), a diploma awarding labour institution.
Finally, the Presidency has noted with deep concern and regrets, the events that culminated in a skirmish at the private residence of the Hon. Minister of Labour and Employment, and condemns it, in its entirety. However, in the spirit of reconciliation, the Presidency appeals for calm from the NLC and the Ministry of Labour and Employment officials, as there are ongoing efforts to reconcile the NLC leadership with the Ministry of Labour and Employment, led by their Minister who has doggedly been fighting the cause of Nigerian workers whenever their issue is discussed by government, the latest being the enactment of the new National Minimum Wage Act 2019.