Minister of Labour and Employment in the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Dr. Christopher Nwabueze Ngige recently said that the suspension of the Managing Director of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF), Adebayo Somefun and other top management staff followed due process.
President Muhammadu Buhari had approved the indefinite suspension of the NSITF MD, three Executive Directors and eight other management staff over alleged financial infractions.
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.
The government also set up an Investigative Panel to look into the financial dealings by the affected officers.
But NECA in a letter to the Minister, signed by it’s Director General, Timothy Olawale, claimed that the suspension violated the disciplinary procedure approved by the President.
In the said letter, Olawale referred to the presidential procedure released by the Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF), put in place to stem the arbitrary removal of Chief Executives of government and to ensure stability in the system.
But the Labour Ministry in a statement signed by the Deputy Director, Press and Publicity, Charles Akpan, debunked Olawale’s claim.
The Ministry stated unequivocally that the removal of the NSITF management followed due process, as the Federal Government hundred percent owned the parastatal.
We want to state clearly that the Minister acted in line with the Constitution, Public Service Rules and NSITF Act, which 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.
The suspension of the management could not be avoided 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.
Meanwhile, Ngige has threatened to sue the Chairman of the House of Representatives on Finance James Falake, for alleging that he inserted N2 billion projects in the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) 2020 budget.
He accused Falake of either being “mischievous or ignorant of the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) Act or both.”
Ngige also accused the lawmaker of abusing “parliamentary privilege,” being ignorant of the fact that ministers cannot pad budgets because the final products come from the National Assembly.
He said he was already writing Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila on his readiness to ”go to court to challenge Faleke for a abusing his parliamentary privilege.”