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I never knew an agency like NSTIF existed, says minister

The federal government says it has set up a committee to investigate a wide range of issues that have caused lingering crisis within the Nigeria…

The federal government says it has set up a committee to investigate a wide range of issues that have caused lingering crisis within the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) and find a lasting solution to the issues.

Minister of Labour and Employment, Simon Lalong, who disclosed this at the NSITF headquarters, Abuja on Tuesday, confirmed that within the short period of time he has spent in office as minister, he has received a lot of petitions.

Lalong also said he never knew an agency like NSITF existed in the country, not until he was appointed a minister, adding that he had taken a look at all the petitions submitted to his office.

Daily Trust had earlier reported how the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) invited some top officials of the NSITF for questioning over gratuity payment of N47m to the Managing Director of the Fund, Mrs Maureen Allagoa.

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In a letter dated 14th September, 2023, with reference number ICPC/SSD/TB/197/2023 and directed to the Managing Director of the Fund, those invited include Head of Administration Department, Head of Finance and Investment Department as well as Head of Audit and Inspectorate Department.

Speaking on the development, Lalong said he was aware of different issues that arose from the Fund, particularly the issue of how the MD paid herself, how she was queried by the ministry and how she refunded the money when it became public knowledge.

“Yes, we saw achievements. We also saw a lot of complaints. A lot of complaints came from this agency. And that was why we all came up to look at it first hand and to see how to address some of these issues. There is no agency that has no problem.

“There’s no ministry that has no problem, but if you have problems, you look at ways of addressing some of these problems, so that you can move forward. You may want to step beyond your bounds because you want to achieve beyond that bounds. That is my prayer for NSITF today.

“We are here to look at them, it is not to say we are here to open up opportunity to collect grievances again. I want to assure you that those that came to me both formally and informally, I am aware. Just like I told you the other time, there is no petition that comes to me that I don’t look at it. I look at it and I will address it. Right now, I’ve addressed all of them.

“It is not only in the interest of the nation, but it’s also in your own interest, because you are given responsibilities and those responsibilities given to you can be accessed. Who knows? Tomorrow, the next Minister of Labour and Employment may come from NSITF. That’s why we are here today.

“As a way forward, I quickly set up a committee and that committee I’m going to inaugurate tomorrow to handle all these, summarize them and bring up to me,” the minister said.

The minister stated that people outside only know the ministry for settling labour disputes including averting strike actions labour unions might want to embark on.

He said, “In the whole of outside, people think in the ministry, it is just to settle disputes between workers, and yes, we have been baptised with one. That was the withdrawal of the subsidy. Of course, that took the attention of the nation, and gratefully, that was resolved yesterday.

“Everybody was thinking that would be the mother of all strikes. I must say to that to the cooperation of the labour leaders, Nigeria is moving forward, moving forward.

“Back to the ministry, we gave opportunity for briefings and each agency, all the agencies also came on their own but at the end of the day after collections and summary of all, we realised that this is one big ministry.

“For me, like I said, that time, I never knew about NSITF until I became a Minister of Labour and Employment. Out of all the agencies, I’m not saying others are not important, but there is one that we must focus on, if we want to succeed in that ministry. That was why we give this priority to take this visit to your agency. I thank you very much for the welcome.”

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