By Victor Ahiuma-Young
THERE are indications that the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige is in for more troubles following reports that the Ministry’s Administrative Panel, has uncovered fraud in the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) between 2011 and 2015 and those indicted include those nominated by the Nigeria Labour Congress and Nigeria Employers Consultative Association, NECA.
After the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, investigated the alleged fraud in NSITF and charged six persons to court, the Minister refused to inaugurate a board for the fund which has the veteran labour leader and pro-democracy activist, Chief Frank Ovie Kokori as chairman.
Following intense pressure, the minister set up what he called an administrative panel to investigate same allegations already investigated by EFCC.Recently, the panel submitted its report to the minister who was quoted as saying those indicted included those nominated by the Nigeria Labour Congress and Nigeria Employers Consultative Association, NECA.Reacting, United Labour Congress, ULC, through its General Secretary, Didid Adodo, said though it was commendable to unearth corruption and mismanagement of funds, especially workers’ funds but the minister should go further to name the culprits.
Adodo among others, in a statement said, “However, we were surprised that the Minister was quoted as saying that those indicted included those nominated by the Nigeria Labour Congress and Nigeria Employers Consultative Association. This is contrary to the fact that as we speak, six former directors of NSITF have been charged to court by the EFCC including the NECA representative and there is no Labour man involved in it. Only the Minister can tell Nigerians where he got his own conclusions from.
We disagree with the Minister and we want to state categorically that no Labour representative was found culpable. They were neither indicted by the EFCC nor by the subsequent administrative panel . It is therefore a gross misrepresentation of facts or outright mischief for the handlers of the Minister to have made that generalization which attempted to implicate innocent Labour representatives in the alleged fraud even when they knew nothing about it.
“We challenge the Minister to publish names of individuals he said were indicted by that report. This is the only way to avoid unnecessary insinuations even when court records are there for any member of the public interested in the matter to find out who has been indicted or not. The Minister ought to remember that EFCC’s investigations did not indict some individuals on the Board. We are also not unmindful of the implications of setting up an administrative panel in a matter already investigated by the EFCC which to us is a clear indictment of the EFCC. Was the Minister passing a vote of no confidence?
“We are therefore aghast that despite the bill of innocence given to Labour representatives, the Minister still went ahead to make that allussion.ULC does not want to be drawn unnecessarily into the politics of NSITF as we want to distance ourselves from its activities as it concerns Board appointment shenanigans. We would not want however to be bandied together with whatsoever individuals that may have been found culpable by the different investigations.
All we demand is that funds which belong to Nigerian workers must not be mismanaged by any individual or group. Anybody that may have been found to have been involved in any alleged fraud must be brought before the relevant institutions for appropriate sanctions and full recovery. No politics with our money.
We believe that the credibility of not just the Ministry of Labour but the Federal Government will be in jeopardy if it is found to be a harbinger of half-truths and outright falsehood before Nigerians. If this is how the operations of the Ministry are conducted, then, as representatives of workers, we are seriously concerned”.