interviewBy Mohammed Shosanya
Lagos — Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF), Alhaji Munir Abubakar gives the impacts and constraints of social insurance scheme to Nigerian workers in this interview. Excerpts:
Could you tell us some of the challenges confronting NSITF?
Some of the challenges are proper documentation. For instance, there are over 412 applications for claims that have been received without proper documentation as a result of failure to complete all relevant ECS forms or failure to include required attachments. Glaring ignorance of the manner and type of accidents/diseases covered by the act among others are more of the challenges causing delay in payment of claims.
How can you overcome some of these challenges?
Part of the future plans of the NSITF's scheme to overcome some of the challenges are the accreditations of hospitals and clinics all over the country. These hospitals will be used for the treatment of injured persons under the scheme. A committee is working on the opening of rehabilitation centers/vocational training centres in compliance with the provisions of the act.
What benefits will an injured employee get while at work and how does the NSITF address this?
That is our job and that is what the new scheme is meant to address. But first and foremost, every employer in the country is expected to register with the trust fund in the scheme. We have as many as 10 to 12 specific forms we are using for registration.
When an employee is injured, what you do as an employer is to fill the necessary forms and send them to us. But in order not to delay or not to allow that employee suffer, we have interim arrangements in place for now, and that is, each employer is allowed to use facilities like clinics if he has one, but if he doesn't have, he can use the services of hospitals that are close by.
For instance, if you have a construction company called XYZ Limited, if somebody falls and breaks his leg or arm, the first thing the employer should do is to rush him to the clinic where it normally treats its employees and let the person be treated. After that, it can send us the bill and we settle it immediately when it comes.
Now, in the event of death, what we do, based on the act which is very clear and which we have been implementing, is that if the diseased employee has a widow, we will pay that woman for life until she dies. If it is a male beneficiary, the same thing applies.
We will pay him 90 percent of his monthly earnings and if he has children, there is also a formula which we use to calculate what is entitled to each child. However, in the event the widow decides to marry, then that benefit will stop, but so long as the beneficiary does not marry, the benefit will continue unstopped until the person dies.
How would you describe the performance of companies regarding registration of their employees with the NSITF?
You see, anything new often encounters delays and this is expected. First, let me say that this scheme was being run under an old and archaic system which you call the Workman Compensation Act and there were some things which need be addressed.
Secondly, the new scheme is much more elaborate and is a better scheme than the first and employers are cooperating with us. In fact, the Nigeria Employers' Consultative Association (NECA) and the NSITF have been making many companies see reason as to why they have to register and get involved in the scheme.
Though there are still some companies that are not registered yet, what we do is to encourage them do so before we wield the big stick. What we are doing now is that we are engaging the employers and we are carrying the campaign to their doorsteps and making people realize that it is the right of an employee to be insured in the scheme because the gains cannot be overemphasized. The good thing is that many of them are seeing the reasons to comply and are complying and we are glad about this.
From your experience so far, what are the factors inhibiting companies from complying with the social insurance scheme for employees?
What is holding back most of those not registered in the scheme is that the scheme took off in 2011 and they are bound to pay from 2011. Most of them are appealing that we should allow them pay from 2012 and that has been why they are yet to come onboard, otherwise they are willing considering the benefits of the scheme. However, I am sure that at the end of the day we will reach an amicable resolution.
What are some of the demerits of the old scheme that are being addressed by the present one?
There are so many. First, in the former scheme, it used to take long time for a beneficiary to get enlitlements. For instance, if somebody broke an arm, it took months or even years before he was compensated.
Easy documentation is another improvement which this scheme has over the previous one. This scheme makes payment with ease when compared to the former one and it pays the beneficiary for life once the situation has to do with death of an employee. This scheme pays people on monthly basis and we train people in this scheme.
What is the number of employers registered so far in the scheme?
It is a fact that we have been able to register over 1,000 employers despite the difficulties facing the process of getting them agree to terms. The scheme has been able to appoint 12 Deposit Money Banks as contribution collection banks, while contribution collection agents have been appointed to facilitate revenue generation. A successful round of enlightenment campaign was organised for employers with NECA and some of the statutory forms we use have been reviewed with a view to making them employer/employee friendly.
Could you tell us the number of claims which the scheme has been able to settle?
All the 4,507 claims so far received are being treated and those with proper documentation involving either accidents or deaths have been paid. Some dependants of deceased persons particularly from Cappa 'D Bato are already receiving monthly benefits as per the provisions of the Act. The federal government's contributions for federal workers have been received. It will interest you to know that a draft benefit manual has just been submitted to the management.