* Threatens legal action against Faleke over comments
Udora Orizu in Abuja
The Minister for Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige yesterday accused the suspended management of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) of awarding about 332 different contracts worth about N4.448 billion in one day, just two days after he left office as minister in 2019.
Ngige has threatened legal action against a member of the House of Representatives, Hon. James Faleke.
The minister, who made a presentation before the House of Representatives adhoc Committee investigating alleged breach of presidential directive, said the suspended management committed about 74 different infractions for which they were suspended.
He listed some of the infractions committed by the management include extra-budgetary spending, making payment for unapproved expenditure, over-spending on administrative issues, irregular direct payment from the Employees Compensation Act, irregularities in staff group assurance policy and making payment for Assurance policy without a policy cover.
Ngige was alleged to have suspended top management and executive committee members of the NSITF, although the presidential directive bars ministers from sacking heads of agencies.
The minister had asked Faleke to recuse himself from the hearing since he had already passed judgment on him (Ngige) through his statements on the floor of the House when the motion for the investigation was raised on July 7, 2020.
Faleke in his response accused Ngige of passing judgment on the board of the NSITF without proper investigation, a statement which infuriated Ngige who vowed to go to court.
Faleke had accused Ngige of hijacking the budget of the NSITF and removing the board to cover his tracks.
The minister defended his decision to suspend the board, informing the committee that it was based on a report from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), which uncovered financial fraud in the NSITF.
Ngige added that the suspension of the board was approved by the President.
A lawmaker, Hon. Sada Soli, however, questioned the authenticity of the document of approval as claimed by the minister.
Soli pointed out that there were misspelled words and imposition in the photocopy, which the minister presented.
He also questioned why the chairman of the board was not affected by the suspension.
In his response to the letter’s grammar composition, Ngige said he corrects spelling mistakes daily and the errors in the letter from the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, authorising the suspension, are not major.
He also presented the original document, suggesting that the photocopy is authentic.
However, he refused to submit the letter to the committee, promising to make it available later.
Meanwhile, a legal adviser in the OSGF, Emmanuel Akisa, confirmed that the letter from the minister requesting the suspension was received.
He also added that the OSGF received a communication from the President directing the immediate suspension of the NSITF management team, pending the outcome of investigations into their actions.