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NSITF: Doubts over Ngige’s probe panel neutrality  

By Obas Esiedesa

There is palpable fear within the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) that the presidential joint board committee inaugurated by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige may not be fair in its assignment.

It was feared that a panel that was meant to unravel the alleged financial infractions in the NSITF ought to be moved away from the Ministry of Labour and Employment to either the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), or the Office of the Head of Service of the Federation.

Sources within the Fund said Ngige and Chairman of the board, having shown they are interested parties ought not to be a part of the committee or play any role therein.

The way the Minister has administered both the National Directorate of Employment (NDE) and NSITF shows that a clear pattern in the last five years Ngige has been in the saddle.

Those who are familiar with the Minister’ trajectory in the ministry pointed at some developments in the recent past.

They pointed at the clever way Ngige unseated a former Acting Managing Director of the Fund, Ismail Agaka and a few others that Ngige set up an Administrative panel of inquiry to investigate in 2018 was peopled by the Minister’s cronies in the same ministry.

Investigations revealed that the Minister is using his position to recall ‘converted staff’ back into the Fund and rewarded them as soon as they showed remorse and readiness to be used to pull anyone the Minister does not want down.

The investigative panel was set up by Ngige to investigate Ponkap Zwalda who was an officer in the Audit Department, the current Acting Managing Director, Dr Kelly Nwagha and Mrs Catherine Ugbe, head, ICT.

Findings showed that the recommendations of the panel which was headed by a former Permanent Secretary of the ministry were never implemented as they were never made public by the Minister.

The report which was submitted to Ngige on the 18th July 2018 has not seen the light of day and the Presidency has kept mute over it with the fate of the suspended workers hanging in the balance two years after.

People are asking about what happened to the humongous N62.3 billion which Dr Ngige gleefully advertised in the media and why the silence on the issue.

Ponkap Zwalda is back as the head of Audit so also is Dr Nwagha who was restored as General Manager, Occupational Health and Safety of NSITF and now appointed as the Acting Managing Director of NSITF.

With Ngige said to have shoved aside the Acting President of Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA) from the Investigative Panel, which those knowledgeable about the matter say is likely going to be used to remove non-loyalists within the Fund, especially as Ngige does not see them as capable because he did not recommend them as ‘fit and proper’ people to lead the Fund, the stage is set for vendatta galore.

The suspended officers have repeatedly said they are ready to be investigated by an independent panel of inquiry but not the one Ngige set up.

This is why the people concerned are prepared to attend the committee empanelled by the House of Representatives with the Senate set to raise its own committee.

Indeed, NSITF Board led by Austin Enajemo-Isire, did not have any problem with Chairman of the Finance Committee of the NSITF Board, Taiwo Adeniyi, who is the Acting President of NECA until Ngige stunned Enajemo-Isire last week via a letter with reference number ML.HMO/LAB/126/iv/108 dated July 10, 2020, to let Isire know that NECA Acting President has not been cleared by security agencies after one year in the saddle and after attending several board meetings.

The Committee, who the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry inaugurated on Ngige’s behalf, has President of NULGE, Ibrahim Khaleel as chairman.

Other members of the panel included the Director, Occuptional Safety and Health in the ministry, Dr Ifeoma Ayanwutaku; director, Human Resources at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Umma Dutse; Director, Organisation Design and Development, Office of the Head of Civil Service, Mr B. Omogo; Director, Monitoring department, Office of the Accountant General of the Federation, Muhammed Katun; Director of Audit, Office of the Auditor General Office, Nicolas Mtemave; Director, Procurement, ministry of labour, Dr Onwusoro Maduka; Director, Human Resources, National Productivity Centre, Mrs E. Ogriki, who serves as the secretary of the panel.

Written by ExpressDay

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