Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja
The House of Representatives has described the failure of public and private organisations to comply with the requirement of the law setting up the National Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) as an act of sabotage against the interests of Nigerian workers.
The Speaker of the House, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, stated this on Monday during an investigative hearing on the ‘Non Remittance of Contributions into the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF)’ by the three tiers of government, their parastatals, public corporations and companies from 2010 till date.
The Speaker, who was represented by the Majority Leader of the House, Hon. Alhassan Doguwa, explained that the NSITF was created to meet a specific need, which include provision of adequate compensation for all employees or their dependents, in the event of death, injury, disease or disability arising from, or in the course of their employment.
He noted that the ad hoc committee was set up in response to a resolution arising from a motion it considered during the plenary session of Thursday, July 18, 2019.
He stated: “It follows therefore that failure to comply with the requirement of law in this matter is an act of sabotage against the interests of the Nigerian workers, and that is unacceptable.
“When, as is evidently the case, government institutions themselves also fail to meet their obligations in this regard, it evidences a glaring repudiation of the government’s constitutional obligation to serve the security and welfare of the people.”
Gbajabiamila noted that the mandate of the committee was therefore to identify what factors might be militating against full compliance with the requirements of the law in this instance, and to make recommendations thereto on what the House could do to achieve full compliance, and properly penalise those who refuse to do what is required of them, whether they’re government institutions or private enterprises.
He stressed that if it requires that the House amend the law, it would do so, and if it requires that the House works with the NSITF to improve on the internal regulatory framework, it would do so too.
The Speaker stated categorically that the House would make sure that the rights of the Nigerian workers are respected and their interests protected.
He therefore urged the committee to be meticulous and diligent in the assignment and deliver a report to the House within the shortest possible time so that it can begin to act in whatever capacity is required of it.
Earlier, the chairman of the committee, Hon. Sada Soli, said the fact that government and all its agencies are guilty of this laxity was capable of giving the impression that government do not prioritise the social security and welfare scheme that provides comprehensive compensation to workers who suffer from occupational diseases or sustained injuries arising from accidents at work place or in the course of employment.
He noted that government at all levels must begin to show more compassion towards the fate of workers, especially in their weakest moments.
Soli stressed that government must remember that the whole idea behind the NSITF was to ensure that workers were not abandoned during the most vulnerable period of their lives when they could no longer look after themselves or their families.
He explained that this was the principle behind the Employee’s Compensation Act of 2010, which provides a guarantee and adequate compensation for all workers and their dependants for any death, injury, disease or disability in the course deat their emploemployment.
Soli stressed further that this assistance was meant to be taken from the Solvent Compensation Fund which the worker and the employer are supposed to contribute into.
He said it was therefore both a moral and legal responsibility for the government, and indeed all employers of labour, to ensure that those who spend the best part of their lives working to contribute to the growth of the societies are not allowed to suffer neglect occupational diseases, injuries or death.
Soli noted that besides, the only way that workers would be willing to sweat it and put in their best is if they have prior assurance that whatever happens to them in the course of their duties, they would be duly compensated.
The committee chairman lamented that it is therefore sad that over the years, government –local, state and federal levels — and indeed many of the employers of labour have been careless in remitting their contributions to the Fund, thereby crippling its operations.
Soli was of the opinion that without these crucial contributions, the vast majority of Nigerian workers would be denied the prospect of getting any relief whenever they suffer occupational misfortune.
He noted that the committee and indeed the National Assembly call on the tiers of government and their agencies, parastatals and private companies to immediately pay all contributions due to the NSITF in order not to jeopardise the noble objectives of establishing the Fund.
The committee chairman said that in Nigeria, the coal and petroleum sectors produced the highest case of fatality per injured person, which is about 16.6 per cent compared to 5.9 per cent amongst wood workers.
He stated: “I am therefore calling on all major oil companies, particularly the NNPC and its subsidiaries, the greatest violators of this Act to expedite action to rectify this breach and pay their backlog of contribution to the NSITF before legal action is taken against them.”
On his part, the Minister of Labour and Productivity, Senator Chris Ngige, commended the committee for its interest in the social welfare of workers, while also urging it to assist in amending the Act to include stiffer penalties for defaulters.