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NSITF to prosecute employers over workers’ scheme



Munir Abubakar, Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF)

THE Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) will begin the prosecution of employers who have not enrolled their employees in the Employees Compensation Scheme.

The Managing Director of the Fund, Munir Abubakar, who disclosed this in Port Harcourt recently at the NSITF-Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA) Safe Workplace Intervention Project (SWIP), hinted that those to be prosecuted would include state governments and employers that are yet to comply with the Employees Compensation Act 2010.

He explained: “The legal department of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) has been given marching order to prosecute every non-compliant employer. The Fund will soon drag these recalcitrant employers to court for prosecution. We will ensure that every employers that have not will now pay from July 2011 to date because this payment is a product of the law and those who flout the law must be made to face the full wrath of the law. We have given enough grace to employers; we have cajoled them and explained why their employees must be covered under the Employees Compensation Scheme Act.”

The NSITF boss highlighted that though the Fund has been talking to state governments on the need to enroll their employees, any state that does not comply will also be dragged to court.
He said that the Federal Government has continued to lay a perfect example by consistently paying for its employees on the Scheme.
“The Federal Government showed a perfect example for the state government. The Fund is also very happy with some state governments that have started enrolling their workers on the scheme. I must add here that we are not threatening the state governments with court action. That is not the intention at all. Even as at now, we are still talking and explaining to state governors on why they should enroll their worker and the responses have been encouraging,” he said.
Abubakar hinted that about 33,900 employers and seven million workers have joined the Scheme so far.

His words: “There are about 33,900 employers that are participating in the Scheme. There are also about seven million employees now on the Scheme. The increment of employers on the Scheme is influenced by the fact that now they see the Scheme as a move by government to promote safety in the workplace and a step to show concrete commitment to ensure that injured workers are not only treated but are rehabilitated. In case of death, NSITF pays the survivors of the deceased worker. This Scheme does not only ensure the safety of workers but also promote efficiency and enhance productivity because workers now know that they can work without inhibition because they would be looked after in even of injury or death. Any employer that fails to enroll its workers on the Scheme shows such employer does not care for its workers.”

He listed non-compliance, shortage of knowledgeable staff at inception, inadequate offices and ICT gap as challenges that confronted the scheme. However, he explained that most of the challenges have been overcome in a systemic manner.

He added: “The challenges confronting the Scheme have been the non-compliance of the state and local governments, which we are trying to address. Because of the newness of the Scheme, the stabilization period has been very challenging as well. Critical stakeholders are still trying to adjust to the demands of the Scheme. We started from ground zero but within a very short period, we now have staffers that are very knowledgeable in social security delivery strategies, installed highly sophisticated computerization programme and established more offices.”

The NSITF boss said the Fund is working on the revival of centres located in Lagos and Enugu where artificial body parts such as fingers, arm and others could be manufactured in the country.
“Our intention is to run these centres for about six months before implementing others. Our intention is to establish each centre in the six-geopolitical zones of the country. This is a provision that is contained in the Employees Compensation Act,” Abubakar said.

The NSITF helmsman also revealed that the Fund plans to develop a checklist of requirements for claims with a view to reducing the amount of time within which to process entitlements by injured employees.
On his part, the Director General of NECA, Segun Oshinowo, called for the involvement of the Ministry of Labour and Employment in the audit process of Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) standards in workplace premises.

He said: “By involving the ministry of labour and employment, we are going to cover a larger terrain which will require more fund. Beyond the fund that we will require, it is going to put every enterprise and employer on their toes to make sure there is no longer a hiding place as far as compliance with Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) standards is concerned. The challenges that our consultants had gaining access to companies will not be an issue with the Ministry of Labour and Employment. The Ministry complained over time that it does not have the resources to discharge its statutory responsibilities will no longer be an issue now since the project would be adequately funded.”

He stressed the need to place high premium on occupational hazards saying, “there is no enough of money that can be paid to an employee for a lost eyes or a lost finger. So, for us in NECA, the focus must always be to ensure that the workplace is safe for every employee.”
While declaring that NECA supports the step by NSITF to ensure that every employer in the country complies with the provisions of the law, Oshinowo stressed that beyond compliance, the Ministry of Labour must begin to ensure safety is prioritized by employers which it has failed to compel in the past.

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