The fallout between the Minister for Labour and Employment, Sen. Chris Ngige and top management officers of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) that eventually led to the dropping of President’s name to announce the illegal suspension of the Managing Director/Chief Executive of the NSITF, Mr. Adebayo Somefun and three other directors has been revealed.
A source, who spoke with this medium on the basis of anonymity, made it know that the Minister of Labour and Employment, Sen. Chris Ngige, has been on the neck of the management heads of the NSITF to be monitoring their activities at the expense of governing board that law empowered with such responsibility.
Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) is the only self accounting agency under the ministry of Labour and Employment. We could recalled how some former heads of the agency was alleged of financial misappropriation to the tune of over N69billion which the case later led to the interim forfeiture of over 48 choice properties, allegedly belonging to the former chairperson of the agency, Ngozi Olejeme.
According to the source, The new management under the leadership of Barr. Adebayo Somefun was appointed in 2016 and there was no governing board in place as at the time of their appointment, in which it means that they have to take approval from the ministry and minister in particular anytime they want to make procurement that is beyond what the law empowered them.
However, when the Board of the agency was inaugurated, under heavy security,as against the wishes of the NLC, on the 13th of May, 2019, headed by Mr. Austin Enajemo Isire, they stopped approaching Minister for approval for award of contracts and any other financial related matters and started running the agency with governing board based on what the law stated and this is said not to go down well with the minister.
According to the source, the Minister has been dragging the matter with those heads of management officers since last year, and as part of the strategy to scare them, he petitioned President Muhammadu Buhari through a letter submitted to the Secretary to the Federal Government (SGF) Boss Mustapha alleged them of misconduct which the SGF requested for the queries letter he must have written to those alleged officers and their responses to such queries based on what the law says before he can submit such letter to the president Buhari but the minister could not provide the requested queries letter which eventually cause setback to that particular move. You would recall that the SGF had earlier sent a memo to all Ministers against arbitrary removal of Heads of agencies and parastatals of the Federal Government agencies.
But to the surprise of the said suspended officers and other management staffers of the agency, the suspension was still announced in the name of President Muhammadu Buhari 3 weeks after, precisely on 2/7/2020, which the statement reads in part “President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the indefinite suspension of the Managing Director/Chief Executive of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF), Mr. Adebayo Somefun”
“The President also approved the suspension of four directors of the agency. They are the Executive Director, Finance and Investment, Mr. Jasper Ikedi Azusalam; Executive Director, Operations, Mrs. Olukemi Nelson and Executive Director, Administration, Alhaji Tijani Darazo Sulaiman”
“Their suspension was announced in a statement issued by the Deputy Director, Press and Public Relations, Charles Akpan, on Thursday in Abuja”
However, in a statement released by the management of the agency hours after the announcement of the suspension of their headship, they described the suspension as illegal and Said the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige has overreached himself.
According to the statement “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 announcement. The person mentioned in the media report is not a staff of the President”
“For clarity, we need to mention that we received a letter from the Hon Minister of Labour and Employment Sen Chris Ngige stating that he is doing a procurement audit on NSITF and that Management is suspended”
“We note that the Minister’s action is against President Buhari’s directive through the Secretary to the Government of the Federation that stated clearly that no Minister should suspend or sack any head of agency appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari”
“The memo stated that Ministers should follow procedures by going through the governing board of the agency that will now make recommendations to the SGF to act if there is need. We are sure that President Buhari will not be part of any illegality and lack of due process”
“Meanwhile, the management of NSITF is open to any form of investigation by the appropriate agency as there is nothing that the management will hide or is hiding. We have been in receipt of several letters by the minister and several petitions written against NSITF by the Minister of Labour, Sen Chris Ngige and we will make all communications available to the public and relevant authorities”
“The Management of NSITF is still discharging their duty as appointed by Mr President” it reads.