Despite the explanation given by Chris Ngige, the Minister of Labour and Employment over delay in the inauguration of Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF), Adams Oshiomhole, the national chairman of All Progressives Congress (APC), Monday, still threatened to expel him from the party.
Oshiomole and Ngige have been at loggerhead over purported refusal of the minister to inaugurate boards of parastatals under his ministry, several months after they were appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Ngige had told Oshiomhole that the delay in the inauguration of the Board of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Funds, NSITF, was as a result of the alleged uncovered fraud of over N40 billion by the previous board.
However, Oshiomhole who refused to hear any explanation said on Monday at the State House in Abuja “If the minister refuses we will suspend him from the party.
“And if the President condones disrespect for his office, I will not condone disrespect for the party.
“When we expel the minister we will prevail on the president that he can’t keep him in his cabinet people who have neither respect for his own decisions nor have respect for the party without which they would not have been ministers” Oshiomhole added.
He expressed his grievance after Ngige replied a letter by the party asking him to inaugurate all board members appointed under his ministry.
Ngige while responding insisted that he had inaugurated three boards in the ministry but would not be in a hurry to inaugurate that of Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF), because of an alleged N40 billion corruption scandal by the former board.
However, the former governor of Edo state emphasized that no minister his above the rules of the party.
“For me, it is the height of mischief for any minister: you cannot purport to be an honourable minister and you act dishonourably and nobody is greater than the party.”
The chairman further stated that the party would not allow any of its members to take the president for granted and if anyone is found guilty would face the consequence.
“So, we are informing them that it is either they comply to the president’s instructions or they comply with the party’s position or they go and administer outside the government,” Oshiomole said.
Recall that last week, the Administrative Probe Panel set up to look into the finances of the NSITF submitted its report which discovered that over N40 billion was unaccounted for.
The National Chairman of APC had in a letter to the minister, implored him to make haste and inaugurate all the governing boards of the agencies and parastatals under the Labour Ministry.
But Senator Ngige in his reply, said he had inaugurated three boards in the ministry but was not in a hurry to inaugurate that of NSITF because of the alleged humongous fraud discovered by the probe panel.
In his letter to the APC Chairman, Ngige said, “Our National Chairman, I am in receipt of a letter referenced APC/NHDQ/GEN-S/28/018/003 dated July 11, 2018, which was sent from your Office and received by me on July 12, 2018.
“Ordinarily, I would not believe the letter was from you except for the barrage of media statements that came before I saw the letter. I read the contents of this letter with both amazement and utter disbelief.
“Firstly, it is not true that I did refuse/neglect to inaugurate Members of the re-constituted Boards of Parastatals and Agencies under the supervision of my Ministry as alleged in your letter.
”The Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment has four parastatals, namely the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund, NSITF, National Directorate of Employment, NDE, National Productivity Centre, NPC, and Michael Imoudu Institute for Labour Studies, MINILS.
”Boards of the latter three agencies have been re-constituted and members were inaugurated on March 8, 2018, in conformity with a Presidential directive. All the three Boards are currently operational.
“The only agency left out was the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund, NSITF which, before the directive, had been enmeshed in major issues of corruption involving about N48 billion, comprising Federal Government and Employers’ contributions to the Employees’ Compensation Fund plus some non-remitted PAYE taxes, which were carted away through well perfected sleaze operation.
“This resulted in the agency coming under the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, investigation/prosecution of members of the former Board and some of her serving Officials.
“An Administrative and Financial Panel of Enquiry was instituted with a Presidential approval as a follow-up to the criminal investigations. This was followed by a House of Representatives Committee on Labour and Employment probe in March 2018 which is still ongoing, and also in situ.
“Comrade National Chairman, you are aware of this situation and you had broached this issue with me during your campaign period when I visited your campaign office, due to the fact that a lot of the information available to me as the Minister are classified, I had told you that I will brief you later and at our last meeting during a function on Saturday, July 7, 2018, I had sought for an appointment for the next day so I could brief you on the situation.
”I am not oblivious of the fact that you are a very interested party in the matter because, having served as chairman of the NSITF Board before the last Board and as a former Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, President, you would be interested in the tripartite colouration of the Board being maintained more so as Labour still remains your base constituency.
“Mr. Chairman, a lot of the classified information from the EFCC, the Auditor General of the Federation’s “spot check” report for an organisation with an account that has not been audited for five years, 2013 – 2017, are not within your purview.
”In view of all these damaging reports, I had a Presidential permission not to inaugurate this particular Board at the time we did the others.
“However, I wish to assure you that the Administrative and Financial Panel of Enquiry has just concluded its work and presented it report today. The Board will be in place very soon in order to assist the implementation committee being put in place by the Ministry to effect the various policy recommendations that are aimed at sanitizing the agency and strengthening the very weak Internal Audit System that allowed N5 billion to be taken out of this organisation in one single day without voucher(s)!!
“I am sorry that I will be unable to accede to your “directives” to inaugurate all the Boards within one week as the Ministry had already inaugurated the aforementioned three Boards but will in this case of the NSITF adhere to the “work plan” on the NSITF as approved by Mr. President who is the head of the government of the Federation.
”Based on this, be assured that the Board of NSITF will be constituted very soon, at most, before the end of July 2018.’’