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Sacked NSITF Management Left N30bn Debt –FG

Oluwasina Phillip

The sacked management of the Nigerian Social Insurance Trust Fund depleted the savings of the Fund to N2bn, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige has said.

Ngige who stated this at the closing ceremony of the two-day Management Performance Review held in Abuja, explained that the sacked management left huge liabilities and debt of about N30bn.

President Muhammadu Buhari had in June 2020, approved the sacking of the top management staff of the NSITF over alleged N3.4bn fraud.

The NSITF Managing Director and Chief Executive, Bayo Somefun, and the Executive Directors in charge of Finance, Jasper Azuatalam; Investment, Operations, and Administration, Tijani Sulaiman and Human Resources, Mrs Olukemi Nelson, were also relieved of their positions.

Also dismissed were the nine top management officers hitherto on suspension alongside the MD and EDs.

The decision, which took effect from July 1, 2020, was sequel to the approval of the recommendations in the Report of the Presidential Joint Board and Audit Investigation Panel set up by the President in July 2020 to investigate the infractions of the Public Procurement Act, 2007, and the Financial Regulations in the NSITF.

The officials were sacked on the recommendations of the Ngige.

The sacked MD of NSITF and its management staff were said to have lavished N3.4bn on non-existent staff training split into about 196 different consultancy contracts in order to evade the ministerial tender’s board and Federal Executive Council approvals.

But in a statement on Sunday, Ngige commended the new management of the Fund for what he described as its new focus and work-friendly approach.

He said the new team has justified the decision of the President to relieve the immediate past management team of their responsibilities.

The minister said, “When in July 2020 the President approved the suspension and later removal of the former management of the NSITF after over three years in office, the fund’s savings was at a paltry N2bn.

“The acting management of Kelly Nwagha who bridged the gap for less than a year moved the savings to N8bn and in six months, the current management under Mike Akabogu has moved it to N17bn.

“The people they succeeded in office had only N2b in the account but left a liability, debts of over N30bn. Is that good management?

“We discovered very sadly that the NSITF has not re-adjusted staff salary but it is not the fault of this management but of preceding ones who didn’t think about the lowly placed persons. We discovered it and have given them an ultimatum to do so by the end of January 2022.”

The minister gave the NSITF management January 31 deadline to re-adjust the staff salary structure and also urged it to fully automate its operations within three months.

Ngige further told the NSITF staff that incentives would be tied to performance.

He added, “If you improve your contributions before the end of March, all your allowances will be reviewed.  So, all the staff must sit up. A new system is here to reward hard work. The era of clocking at 8:30 am to sleep and clock out 4pm is over.”

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