Inaugurates nine-man panel
Senator Iroegbu in Abuja
The federal government has concluded plans for a comprehensive probe of the corruption allegations against the former Chairman of Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF), Mrs. Ngozi Olejeme, and other staff of the agency.
Therefore, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, thursay in Abuja inaugurated a nine-man administrative panel of enquiry into the finances of NSITF.
Ngige charged the panel to look into the financial state of the NSITF with a view to purging it of all negative trails inflicted on it by its last board and management.
He said: â€œAs you may be aware, the last board and administration of the NSITF left negative trails inimical to any advancement and progress for both the human and infrastructural components of the NSITF.
â€œThe Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had discovered various acts of fraudulent diversions from the federal government and private sector contributions amounting to N62.3 billion as at 2015 allegedly perpetrated by the past board and management staff of the NSITF.â€
In instituting the public inquiry, the minister said though the EFCC was already handling the criminal investigations leading to the prosecution of the former Managing Director, General Manager, Legal and the Deputy General Manager, Finance and Accounts, it was crucial to further unearth the administrative machinery that made the looting of such colossal sum of public fund possible and forestall its reoccurrence.
He lamented that contrary to the Act establishing the NSITF, no Accounting Audit Report and Returns had been done in the organisation since 2013.
â€œOn assumption of duty in November 2015, I requested for the audit report to enable my office render same in my Annual Report to the president as required by Section 30 of the NSITF Act, CAP. N88, Laws of the Federation 2004, but no feedback was given on the matter in 2015, 2016, and even 2017. All efforts made in this direction were frustrated.
â€œIn 2017, I specifically requested the Auditor General of the Federation to conclude periodic audit check as required by Section 85(4) of the constitution. This yielded no result as the officials of the NSITF gave no cooperation to the federal government auditors,â€ Ngige said.
The panel whose membership cuts across relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), would be chaired by Ishaya A. Awotu who is the Director of Finance and Accounts in the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment while Dr. Ifeoma Anyanwutaku, Director of Occupational Safety and Health in the ministry would serve as Secretary. Other members are Mrs. P.O Odusanya from the office of the Auditor General of the Federation; Mr. S.U. Ukut from the National Salary Income and Wages Commission, Millicent Ikeotuonye, from the Budget Office of the Federation, Eze Osuagwu, representing the prganised private sector, representative of the office of the Attorney General of the Federation, Ibrahim Jilbia, who is the Director of Skills Acquisition and Certification as well as Mrs. D.E Ajiboye, Director Social Security and Cooperative Development, both form the Ministry of Labour and Employment.
Among others, Ngige said the panel would investigate the accounting procedure of the fund, conduct proper audit of accounts and establish how statutory deductions of Pensions, Staff Housing Fund and Taxes (PAYE) were not remitted to the relevant bodies for years as well as report on any other financial matter relevant to the thrust of the inquiry.
â€œThe panel will also in the course of its assignment interview the former Chairman of the NSITF, Olejeme; four ex-Executive Directors; Executive Director of NECA, Chief Richard U. Uche; Ex-Director, Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), Aderemi Adegboyega, and ex-Managing Director, Umar Munir Abubakar. It has six weeks to turn in its reports,â€ he added.
While urging that the panel be granted unfettered access to enable it swiftly carry out its assignment without hindrance as hitherto witnessed, the minister announced a compulsory 30 days leave in the first instance for the following officers of the fund. They are: Adebayo A. Aderibigbe GM, Legal; Henry Ekhasomi, DGM, Finance; Ishmael Agaka, GM, Social Security; Zwalda Ponkap, DGM, Internal Audit; Catherine Ugbe, GM, Information, and Dr. Kelly Nwagha, GM, Compensation.
He further enjoined members of the panel to discharge their duties with professionalism and diligence required in the public service
In his remarks at the inauguration, the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Prof. Stephen Ocheni, said the exercise was a living testimony of the commitment of the Buhari administration to the war on corruption, and urged the panel to remain steadfast to the terms of its assignment.
Similarly, the Chairman of the Panel, Mr. Ishaya A. Awotu, pledged the commitment of the members to successfully discharge their assignment and thanked the minister.