These are the few questions I intend to use as prism to consider the ongoing NSITF brouhaha:
Q1 – What does NSITF do? – Perhaps this is the first question that should cross the mind of right-thinking folks once again. ‘
With recurring controversies and endless grapple of the structure by ministers, with allegations of fraud dominating the new about this organization, what exactly was it set up to achieve?
The last time I asked them what they did with the contributions we made as companies, I was told they used funds to compensate injured workers. I was surprised, as I didn’t run a factory per se; yes a few machines here and there.
The density of manufacturing for example, which may lead to a plethora of factory-related injuries and claims, is low in Nigeria.
However, the ubiquity of the organization, in showing up in the pockets of all local companies by government fiat, is remarkable.
A visit to the NSITF website provided some clarification though, even though your landing page is a warning about unscrupulous people using the image of the MD for the usual Nigerian scam!
These are reputational risks all over the place. On the website we get that “The NSITF is charged with the implementation of the Employees Compensation Act (2010) which enables compensation in the event of death, injury, disease or disability arising out of, or in the course of employment”.
I reckon interested parties will have to drill in further to know which kind of people are really entitled to benefits from the Fund.
Q2 – Why all the allegations of fraud? – One of the more famous cases in NSITF over the years relates to Mrs Ngozi Olejeme, a powerful woman in the Jonathan era.
Just this past week, the case reared its head again with the usual mish-mash of dozens of properties seized from Madam and her associates. It’s all so nauseating that we are talking of similar accusations with the new team.
Back to the question; why allegations of fraud all the time? It may mean that the controls are designed to be weak such that it doesn’t matter who leads such an organization, same/similar stories will make it out eventually.
Is this all then about reforming systems, or just taking the people through a rigmarole?
For example, the accusation on spending N3.4billion on non-existent training is time-worn in NSITF especially.
You’ll wonder why something solid cannot be put in place to ensure that fictitious trainings don’t keep making it into the accounts. Does the minister look away while these alleged frauds are going on, only to make a point later?
Q3 – What do we do about such unstable legacy? – I will suggest a long, hard look be taken at such an agency, in order to forcefully calibrate its essence and operations towards delivering for the people.
There seems to be too much loose change clanging about in the place and it has always been so – even in the days it was run by labour leaders (perhaps it still is, and so we can see the underbelly of labour leadership in Nigeria through these scandals).
If labour leaders cannot create standard organizations where funds are tightly controlled in a way that reduces opportunities for temptation, who should? Who would?
NSITF in my view has shown too much instability that ranks it as an organization way ahead of most of its peers.
Even if Ngige gets rid of the current set, or they fight their ways back, what is the assurance that in 20 years’ time we will not be discussing similar stuff about the same organization?
With Ngige as minister supervising labour, NSITF has been a hotspot.
This will be the second management team he will attempt to sweep away, even though this time, the details are just so granular it seems that only the junior staff will be running the place in a week.
This should concern every contributor to the fund; every Nigerian citizen indeed. How come there is so much ministerial interference under uncle Ngige? Is he not drawing attention to the fact that the fund is a mere slush fund? Pardon the pun.
Q4 – Will NSITF continue collecting ‘taxes’ after all these? Big question.
The deadpan nature with which organizations in Nigeria rip off the poor people year-in, year-out, and continue to set up ‘effective’ systems for collection of the same monies that they are certain will end up in controversial circumstances (to put it mildly), is my concern here. Should we say the people are docile?
This goes far beyond NSITF. Can we interrogate the Nigerian mind through this? Imagine listening to the news and all you hear is how this and that billions have been embezzled by the people you trust to run your country with your little taxes.
Imagine having to pay out of your hard earned naira to these same organizations while Channels TV. AIT and others scroll the news of the scandal? The question is what kind of patriot will you be?
Or are you one of those merely waiting for their own opportunities for revenge against the commonwealth, after all many of those being mentioned in the revolving doors of these sagas were once on the other side, criticizing government, with some swearing that if given then chance Nigeria will be transformed under them.
It does seem likely that that will be the case, given what we now know.