Why NSITF management seeks redress in court over suspension from office
The need to ensure justice and fairness in the probe of activities of the suspended management of Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) informed taking the matter to the Industrial Court, the Managing Director, Adebayo Somefun has said.
Somefun, who was reacting to the allegation of the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige that some of the management members of the Fund have taken himself and President Muhammadu Buhari to court over their suspension, denied taking the President to court but, following administrative processes in the probe.
This comes as the Managing Director, the Executive Director Operations, Mrs Kemi Nelson; Executive Director, Finance and Investment, Jasper Azulatalam and Exective Director, Administration, Tijani Darazo stayed away from the probe panel headed by the Fund’s board member, Ibrahim Khaleel, saying their action was informed by the fact that the Minister, who is an interested party set up the investigative panel.
Somefun explained that under the principle of fair hearing, the panel saddled with investigating the Minister’s allegations ought not to have been empaneled by himself who is an interested party.
Somefun added that all that were done in award of contracts, training and budget of the Fund were approved by the Minister and the Parastatals Tenders Board as the case may be.
The NSITF boss also queried the omission of the representative of Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA), Taiwo Adeniyi who heads the Finance committee of the NSITF Board.
He alleged that the strange and suspicious barring from the Board of Adeniyi who is also the President of NECA, from the Joint Audit and investigative panel indicates the possibility of an already pre planned indictment of perceived non-loyalists within the Fund.
The MD said the suspended staffers are ready to be investigated by an independent panel of inquiry but not the one the Honourable Minister set up.
He explained: “We hold in high esteem the office of the President and that of the Minister of Labour and Employment as the representative of the President. We did not drag Mr President to court. The office of Mr President is highly revered and regarded by us because he appointed us in the first place. We owe our stay in office at his pleasure and we do not take that lightly. We respect the constituted authority. However, what we are in court for is to enforce our right to fair hearing. The Minister accused us of perpetrating financial infractions and then set up a panel to probe issues he has already accused us of perpetrating. For us, all we did in office had the approval of the Minister and the Parastatals Tenders board where necessary. We have documentary and other evidences to prove our innocence. The members of the Executive team are appointed by Mr President. Our loyalty is total to Mr President. If the Minister is sure about the allegations he levelled against us, he should allow a neutral body to set up an independent panel and present his evidence to the panel.
Consequently, we approached the Industrial court for adjudication because the case is purely industrial in nature.”