Ngige inaugurates NSITF board amid tight security, decries agency’s N48b fraud.
Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, shrugged off protest by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), which recently alleged attacks on its members, to inaugurate the board of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) amid tight security by operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) in the Presidential Villa.
Rationalizing the choice of Austin Enejamo-Isire, a chartered accountant, as board chairman of the employees’ compensation agency, the minister pointed out that the decision was to launch a further probe and unmask those indicted by the administrative panel of inquiry into the misappropriation of the organization’s N48 billion between 2012 and 2015.
While the ceremony lasted, members of the NLC agitated over the treatment meted out to some of them by suspected thugs allegedly hired by the minister when they visited his residence last week.
NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, said the protest was not in respect of the inauguration, but against the alleged assault.
Ngige revealed that 37 choice houses were under forfeiture, while the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) was on the trail of past directors, some of whom, he added, had voluntarily returned funds to government coffers.
Further speaking on Enejamo-Isire’s acceptance ahead of Frank Ovie-Kokori, earlier nominated for the position, Ngige recalled that in one particular occasion under the previous board, N5 billion was withdrawn from the agency’s account without audit trial or voucher.
However, gathered that the former scribe of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) lost out to intrigues in the presidency.
Kokori was denied inauguration 20 months after his nomination because the minister was not consulted.
Indeed, it was the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo that appointed Kokori in August 2017 when he was Acting President.
For clarity, the minister in a statement said: “The Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, Never nominated Comrade Frank Kokori.”
By this, Ngige maintained that the approving authority remains President (Muhammadu) Buhari.
Also, President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Professor Biodun Ogunyemi, urged Buhari to conduct psychiatric tests on his prospective cabinet members.
He said the call followed the ongoing fracas between workers and Ngige, who, according to him, should ordinarily understand the workings of labor.