BY VICTOR AHIUMA-YOUNG
THERE was no better opportunity than the inaugural Nigeria Social Insurance Trustfund, NSITF/ Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association, NECA,organised national workplace safety awareness day/ award ceremony, in Lagos, for NSITF to inform recalcitrant employers that they will hence forth face sanction if they fail to comply with Employee’s Compensation Scheme, ECS, a fall-out of Employee’s Compensation Act, ECA, 2010.
ECA requires employers to contribute one per cent of employee’s monthly pay (gross) into sustainable pool of fund managed by NSITF for payment of compensation to employees who suffer from occupational diseases or sustain injuries including death, arising from accident at the work place or in the course of employment
Addressing employers, leaders of Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, leaders of NECA, and other stakeholders, Managing Director/ Chief Executive Officer of NSITF, Alhaji Munir Abubakar, said the time of grace had passed and that the fund was ready to use the rod.
According to him, “there is today, a global acceptance and a global trend on safety awareness and prevention of accidents at workplace. The occasion we are to witnessing today has therefore come in quite handy and I want to assure this gathering that it is the beginning of better thing to come. While we are grateful to those employers who are complying with the Scheme, I want to use this opportunity to inform recalcitrant employers that our grace period for tolerating non-compliance is now over. We expect full cooperation and compliance on the Scheme, in the absence of which we shall have no other alternative than to apply the big stick, something we very much want to avoid. On our part, we are working day in day out to ensure that we serve employers to the best of our ability.”
“We have set up a Task Force Team made up of key personnel and highly qualified professionals to address and review a number of factors that are militating against smooth compliance. We are already addressing the issue of Statutory Forms which many employers criticized as being cumbersome. We have received a recommendation that will make these Forms employer-friendly and reduce their number from 18 to just about 9. Very soon, we shall get back to employers on that. Similarly, we were able to produce a comprehensive Benefits Manual that will ease the task of paying benefits and furthermore reduce all avoidable delays in such payment. The new Benefits Manual is being studied by the relevant Board Committee before final recommendations are made to the full Board. We have also concluded plans to start reaching out to a larger number of employers. This is distinct from the usual NECA-NSITF forum held at the geo-political zones.”
He added that NSITF had also “perfected plans to reach out to our employers not yet covered, especially the State and Local Governments. We hope to devote enough energy and attention at the beginning of the New Year to enable us capture all the States and Local Governments as well as other private sector employers not yet captured. All these, we will be able to achieve, as our computerization policy is solidly on ground and should be able to accommodate the new task with ease.”
Essential features of ECS
Reiterating the salient features of the ECS, Chairman, Board of Directors, NSITF, Dr. Ngozi Olejeme noted that ECS essentially focused on the prevention of accidents at workplace, medical treatment in case of accident involving disability, compensation for disabilities and death due to work related injuries and rehabilitation for the injured employees who suffer disability.
Represented by a member of NSITF’s board, Mr. Remi Adegboyega, Dr. Olejeme said “Government is working very hard towards ensuring the promotion of safety at workplace. Already, the Occupational Safety Bill before the National Assembly has undergone the 3rd Readings in both Chambers of the Senate and House of representatives. We are hopeful that very soon, the two Committees will harmonize their positions on the Bill and that it will soon be signed into Law.
We look forward to this Law as it will assist us in strengthening the collaborative efforts we are making along with the Ministry of Labour, NECA, NLC, Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC, as well as Federal and State Governments towards ensuring that we enshrine the culture of safety at workplace.”
“The importance of prevention of occupational risks and promoting workers’ health as a dynamic social security issue has further been emphasized by the International Social Security Association, lSSA, where through various studies and researches it has shown that prevention is more profitable than administering compensation and rehabilitation for the injured employees. The employee will be healthy when there is a good prevention method.”
Employers to be law abiding
Speaking, President of NECA, Chief Richard Uche, said “as employers, we will continue to be law abiding by complying with the provisions of the employees compensation Act,2010 (ECA,2010), but more importantly, we will continue to show interest in the health and safety of our employees, which is why we are calling on the NSITF to expand the scope of this project in the years to come. We are also counting on the management of NSITF to demonstrate efficiency and effectiveness in the administration of this scheme, as that is the only way to promote sustainability and voluntary compliance with the law.”
NLC lauds NSITF, NECA
On his part, President of NLC, Comrade Abdulwaheed Omar, thanked NSITF and NECA members for taking the health of workers very serious.
He noted that the Nigerian worker was the sole beneficiary of the scheme and the investment on workplace safety.