…Olejeme, ex-MD, Munir, 6 ex- directors to face panel over alleged cash diversion

By Soni Daniel, Northern Region Editor

Irked by the alleged looting of N62 billion at the National Social Insurance Trust Fund, a parastatal of the Ministry of Labour and Productivity, the Federal Government on Thursday raised a nine-man panel to probe the diversion of the cash and bring the perpetrators to book in line with the anti-corruption posture of the administration.

Similarly, the panel, is to establish the roles played by the last Chairman of the board of the NSITF, Ngozi Olejeme, the ex-Managing Director of the fund, Alhaji Munir Abubakar , the four executive directors and two directors, who served under the chairmanship of the embattled woman.

The Minister of Labour and Productivity, Dr. Chris Ngige, who inaugurated the nine-man panel in Abuja on Thursday, said the Federal Government was worried that the finances of the strategic government parastatal had been left in a mess over the years, making it possible for huge cash to be looted easily without any restraint.

The minister lamented that those who looted the cash had made it impossible for the accounts of the NSITF to be audited for more than four years by relevant government agencies as stipulated by law establishing it, thereby creating a conducive atmosphere for them to turn the place into a cash cow for themselves.

He stated that the pepertrators of the looting at the NSITF had also made it impossible to get the audited accounts of the agency in the last four years and submit the same to the Presidency in accordance with the law, thereby encouraging corruption, which the present administration was frontally opposed to.

Ngige said that while the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission had commenced the prosecution of the looters of the humongous cash at the NSITF, the nine-man panel was essentially put in place to look into the accounting system failure that aided and abetted the diversion of the cash with a view to preventing such lapses in the future.

But to pave the way for the probe of the establishment, Ngige ordered the immediate placement on compulsory leave six persons currently holding strategic portfolios in the NSITF for one month subject to review as the work progresses.

Those affected are: Adebayo Aderibigbe, General Manager, Legal Services, Henry Ekhasomi, Deputy General Manager, Finance, both, who are already being charged to court by the EFCC over the alleged offence.

Others placed on compulsory suspension are: Ismail Agaka, General Manager, Social Security and immediate past acting Managing Director, Zwalda Ponkap, Deputy General Manager, Internal Audit, Catherine Ugbe, General Manager, ICT, and Dr. Kelly Nwagha, General Manager, Compensation,

Besides, the panel has been empowered to interrogate the immediate past Chairman of the NSITF, Ngozi Olejeme, four ex-executive directors and two ex-directors- Chief Richard Uche and Comrade Aderemi Adegboyega in the course of its assignment.

The nine-man panel is headed by the Director of Finance and Accounts of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity, Mr. Ishaya Awotu with other members drawn from the offices of the Accountant General, Auditor General of the Federation, Wages and Salaries Commission, and the Budget Office of the Federation.

The panel has six weeks to turn in its report.

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