Nigeria: 'Suspended NSITF Executives Awarded N20 Million Each to Selves'

President Muhammadu Buhari, National assembly (file photo).
6 July 2020

Indications, weekend emerged that the suspended Managing Director and three Executive Directors of Nigeria Social Insurance Trustfund, NSITF, allegedly awarded N20 million each to themselves against extant rules.

They were accused of unapproved payment of N1 billion to contractors, besides alleged lavishing of about N4.3 billion on some purported training programmes, among other infractions and perceived insubordination.

This came as the Chairman of the Board, Prince Austin Enajemo-Isire has fixed a meeting of the board for tomorrow, calling on staff to remain calm and go about their normal business.

In a statement, the Chairman among others, said: "The attention of NSITF Management Board has been drawn to the media being awashed with news of the suspension of the Managing Director, three Executive Directors and some top management staff of NSITF on approval of Mr. President.

"This approval was conveyed by the Secretary of the Government of the Federation, SGF, to the Minister in a correspondence referenced SGF.47/S11/T./99 of June 30, 2020 for full implementation.

"The Minister has conveyed this approval and directives to me as the Chairman of the management Board for necessary actions, in terms of setting up a board-driven investigative panel to give the affected officers the opportunity to clear themselves of the financial and procurement breaches and acts of gross misconduct and other infractions that gave rise to their prima facie indictment.

"It is in this light that I have decided to call for an emergency virtual meeting of the management Board for July 7, 2020, to consider the modalities for our further action.

"In the Interim, all staff are to keep calm while affected officers are advised to comply with the directives as transmitted to them by the Minister and the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment. In the same vein, we urge all our social partners to exercise restraint, as they will be updated with further development during this board meeting."

Meanwhile, the Managing Director and the Executive Directors weekend resolved to obey the suspension order after realizing that President Muhammadu Buhari approved their suspension.

The suspended management staff had on Friday defied their suspension and went about their normal duties, claiming that President Buhari did not approve the suspension as claimed by the Minister.

Vanguard gathered that the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, led by Ayuba Wabba had tried to know the veracity of the suspension and made contacts with the office of Chief of Staff to the President that confirmed that the suspension has the approval of the President.

Investigations revealed that the suspended top management team operated outside the condition of service given to them as political appointees.

Recall that President Buhari had approved the immediate, compulsory, and indefinite suspension from Office of the Managing Director/Chief Executive of NSITF, Mr Adebayo Somefun, among other top management staff of the fund.

Investigations revealed that the alleged infractions had been going on for over five years, but between April and August 2019, the suspended Managing Director and three Executive Directors, and others allegedly squandered not less than N4.3 billion for purported training programmes, paid over unapproved N1 bilion to contractors, awarded N10 million each to themselves, for furniture, clothing, DStv, etc, another N10 million each for unapproved leave, among other infractions.

According to sources within the fund, "The suspended management allegedly squandered about N4.3 billion for purported training programmes, claiming that 70 per cent of the so-called training did not take place, lamenting that even the training that did take place, were repetitions and irrelevant to the needs of staff."

One of the sources in NSITF informed that "Another bone of contention is the issue of citing and building zonal head offices 14 of them in Ibadan, Abeokuta, Enugu, Ilorin, Bauchi among others. The funny thing is that they are duplicating some of them like Ibadan, Kano, Maiduguri, where we have offices already.

"These are policy matters. The MD and the three Executive Directors designed the place, awarded the contracts and never informed even the ministry. They awarded the contract of about N1.8 billion to cronies for regional offices where they refurbished some of the existing offices."

The suspended persons were also alleged to have done budget virement and replaced official working materials and tools to buy personal SUV (Prado Jeep), Peugeot 508 series and Hilux pilot escort cars. The suspended Managing Director is alleged to have no fewer than five of such expensive cars to himself.

Similarly, the suspended officers equally were accused of "travelling overseas for leave in 2018 without approval and awarded themselves N10million each. They collected estacode, flew in first-class tickets with their relatives including their wives."

It was gathered that the Minister had placed embargo on payment of contracts which was about N6 billion unless until verifications were carried out to ascertain the level of compliance with specification, but the management wrote back to him overruling his directives.

We did no wrong-- NSITF official

However, one of the suspended staff told Vanguard that they did no wrong, as they got approvals for their actions.

Among others, they claimed that all trainings, contracts and rehabilitation carried out by them received the approvals of the Minister, adding "there was no contract splitting as claimed by the Minister.

"The trainings referred to were budgeted for in the year 2017, 2018 and 2019 appropriations for over 5,000 staff nationwide, and procurement planning committee meetings were held for the procurement of goods, works and services to commence the procurement activities.

"All these details were included in the budget for these years, taken for budget defence in the supervising ministry, officially endorsed by the Minister himself, approved and transmitted to the National Assembly for necessary approval during the budget defences for these years."

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