By Victor Ahiuma-Young
Abuja: The Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund, NSITF, Thursday the dismissed insinuation that its new management was under the searchlight of the Senate, informing that contrary to views in a section of the media, the new management of the fund was not under probe by the Public Accounts Committee of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for N62billion fraud.
NSITF in a statement by its Deputy General Manager, Corporate Affairs, Alexandra Mede, said“What the Senate Public Accounts Committee is currently probing is the cumulative actions and inactions, financial malfeasance and infractions by two past management teams of the agency between 2013 and 2020 over which the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation had earlier raised audit alarm. This is purely in the exercise of the statutory oversight function of the National Assembly.
“The new management of the NSITF which came into office on June 1, 2020 has of course submitted itself and all documents requested by the Senate to assist in this oversight, knowing full well that government is a continuum.
“However, we wish to note that these financial infractions and malfeasance has also appropriately and variously been dealt with by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC and the supervising Ministry of Labour and Employment.
“In 2015 for instance, the EFCC arraigned the former Chairman of the Board of the NSITF, Ngozi Olejeme alongside five other senior officials including the Managing Director and three Directors. The EFCC later made public it recovered 48 property worth billions of naira from Olejeme . The matter is still in court even with the forfeiture secured by the EFCC.
“The Ministry on its part, set up an Administrative Panel of Inquiry led by its then Director of Finance and Accounts K.C Awotu on February 15, 2017, to further probe the fund especially how humongous amount in billions disappeared without vouchers, in one day. It made damming revelations and far-reaching recommendations while submitting its report on July 18, 2018. Part of the recommendations has since been implemented.
“Similarly, the Bayo Somefun Executive Management team who took over the fund’s leadership in 2017, made infractions on the extant financial regulations and Procurement Act, and other acts of gross misconduct and was subsequently suspended.
“A Presidential Joint Board and Audit Investigation Panel was set up to investigate the suspended officers comprising three Executive Directors, Jasper Azutalam , Kemi Nelson and Tijani Sulaiman and nine other senior management members. It requested that they respond to the audit queries to which they failed, indeed the former MD and the Executive Directors refused to appear.
“The Joint Board concluded its assignment, recommending their removal from office and the refund of the sum of N181 million. The President approved their removal from office and replacement by new management.
“Therefore, what the Senate is currently probing is not new financial infractions rather, a collective of breaches committed in the agency before the advent of the Dr Michael Akabogu led the team.
“The new team has since gone to work, committed to actualizing the mandate of the NSITF in line with the Employee Compensation Act of 2010. It has set a new course for the rebirth of the agency and will leave no stone unturned.”