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NSITF to spend N12b on promotion, productivity; N25.6bn on personnel

The Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) will spend over N12.4 billion on promotion, appointment, and productivity allowances, analysis on the budget of the agency…

The Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) will spend over N12.4 billion on promotion, appointment, and productivity allowances, analysis on the budget of the agency revealed.

The provision is bigger than the N2.9 billion earmarked for occupational disease claims, a core function of the agency and the N8.2 billion earmarked for capital projects.

Experts and civil society organisations that spoke to Daily Trust stressed the need for a close scrutiny of how officials of government agencies are feeding fat on resources available to them at the detriment of their core mandate.

A policy strategist and former Executive Secretary of the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI), Waziri Adio, in his recent intervention on the 2024 Budget, said: “The curious case of the NSITF should focus the mind. The NSITF is funded from mandated contributions by companies and some government agencies. The accrued resources are designed to provide compensations to workers or their relatives for work-related injuries such as physical harm, mental stresses and even deaths,” he said.

Adio, who also featured on Trust TV’s 30-Minutes programme with Mannir Dan-Ali, to discuss why some government agencies are not getting it right, said, “In 2024, NSITF plans to spend N83 billion, out of which only N8.02 billion will go to sundry forms of injury/death claims, the raison d’etre of the organisation.

“However, N25.29 billion will be spent on personnel, N8.85 billion will be used for promotions, recruitments and appointments, N3.8 billion for purchase of office buildings, N2.84 billion for productivity allowance, N2.49 billion for purchase of computers and N1 billion for purchase of buses.”

Adio said the contributions made to NSITF to compensate injured workers and relatives of deceased workers were being used by NSITF to take care of itself.

He described the development as “total misalignment, underpinned by a huge dose of immorality.”

Our mandate and welfare go hand-in-hand, says NSITF spokesman

When contacted, the spokesman of the NSITF, Nwachukwu Godson, said the Fund had not flouted any stipulated law with the budgeting, neither had it violated any directive by President Bola Tinubu.

He said paying compensation without paying those who would drive the process was not in tandem with the federal government’s commitment to workers’ welfare, adding that any worker deserves his or her wage.

“Both go side-by-side. You can’t budget only for compensation without budgeting for the welfare of the staff members who drive the process to ensure that the mandate of ECS 2010 is fully actualised. A worker deserves his wage.

“The management of the NSITF is well aware of Section 43 of the Trade Dispute Act, Cap T8. Laws of Federation of Nigeria on mandatory pay to workers as well as Convention 85 of the ILO on protection of wages. Even Mr. President (Bola Tinubu) has been consistent on this. Why will the NSITF be found wanting?” Nwachukwu asked one of our correspondents in a telephone interview.

Mandate of the agency

The NSITF was established by the Nigerian government to provide financial and insurance services to employees registered with the Fund.

An analysis of the budget of the Fund indicated under various subheads, those working in the agency stand to gain more than those they are supposed to serve.

It was seen in the budget that the Fund voted N100 million for welfare, another N80 million for honorarium and N120 million for board sitting allowance, as well as long service award, which got N250 million.

In specific terms, the fund provided N2.8 billion for productivity allowance, which is bigger than the N2.9 billion voted for occupational disease claim (N300 million), mental stress claims (N1.6 billion), hearing impairment claim (N300 million), enemy war like injury (N340 million) and daily sustenance claim (N125 million).

Other items on the budget of the fund include: Counselling services to dependents, disabled, mental stressed, among others to gulf N750 million.

However, compensation to dependants of deceased employees (one-off lump sum payment) is estimated to cost N575 million.

The Fund also made provision to spend N150 million on consultancy on national data protection regulation. The provision for this consultancy is unclear as the nation has the ‘Nigeria Data Protection Regulation (NDPR), which provides guidelines on how personal data must be processed in accordance with specific, legitimate and lawful purposes.

How NSITF has been enmeshed in controversy since 2020

There have been several stories of alleged sharp practices, among which is alleged mismanagement of resources at the NSITF since 2020.

A former Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, disclosed that the sacked management of the Fund depleted the savings of the Fund to N2 billion.

Ngige said the sacked management left huge liabilities and debt of about N30 billion.

Former President Muhammadu Buhari had, in June 2020, approved the sacking of the top management staff of the NSITF over alleged N3.4 billion fraud.

According to a report in The Guardian of October 21, 2021, Olejeme, along with former Managing Director of NSITF, Umar Abubakar, allegedly diverted over N69 billion belonging to the fund. The amount was reportedly found in accounts allegedly linked to them after the award of various contracts to some companies.

Similarly, in 2022, payment vouchers of over N17 billion were allegedly destroyed by termites and rain. The revelation was made on August 15 during a probe conducted by the Public Accounts Committee of the Senate,  headed by Senator Matthew Urhoghide (Edo-South).

The committee began its probe following a query by the Office of the Auditor-General for the Federation in its 2018 audit report which indicated that  50 different queries bordering on the alleged misappropriation of funds were reportedly raised against the agency.

Just last year, the Association of Senior Staff of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions (ASSBIFI), NSITF chapter, petitioned the federal government over the demotion of junior workers, secret recruitment and failure to remit deducted pension of workers in the last two years.

In a petition to the Head of Civil Service of the Federation, the union alleged that the NSITF management demoted over 5,000 workers to cut costs but secretly recruited management-level staff.

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