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The Federal Government has inaugurated a nine-man administrative panel of enquiry into the N62.3 billion fraud in Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF).

Sen. Chris Ngige, Minister of Labour and Employment, who inaugurated the panel on Thursday in Abuja, said the measure became necessary as part of the government fight against corruption in the agency.

According to Nigige, as you may be aware, the last board and administration of NSITF left negative trails inimical to advancement and progress for both human and infrastructural components of NSITF.

“The Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) had discovered various acts of fraudulent diversions from the Federal Government and Private Sector contributions amounting to N62.3 billion as at 2015.

“This was allegedly perpetrated by the past board and management staff of the NSITF, ‘’ he said.

He said though the EFCC was already handling the criminal investigation leading to the prosecution of the former Managing Director, General Manager, Legal and the Deputy General Manager, Finance and Accounts.

The minister said it was crucial to further unearth the administrative machinery that made the looting of such a colossal sum of public fund possible and forestall its re-occurrence.

He said contrary to the Act establishing the NSITF, there was no Accounting Audit Report and Returns that had been done in the organisation since 2013.

“On assumption of duty in Nov. 2015, I requested for the audit report to enable my office render same in my Annual Report to the President.

“This is in line with Section. 30 of the NSITF Act, CAP. N88, Laws of the Federation, 2004.

“But no feedback was given on the matter in 2015, 2016, and even 2017. All efforts made in this direction were frustrated.

“In 2017, I specifically requested the Auditor General of the Federation to conclude periodic audit check as required by Section 85(4) of the Constitution.

“This yielded no result as the officials of the NSITF gave no cooperation to the Federal Government auditors.”

Ngige explained that the panel was to look into the financial state of the NSITF to purge it of all negative trails inflicted on it by its last board and management.

He said the panel would also investigate the accounting procedure of the fund, and conduct proper audit of accounts.

According to him, the panel will also establish how statutory deductions of pensions, Staff Housing Fund and Taxes (PAYE) are not remitted to the relevant bodies for years.

Ngige said the panel should as well report on any other financial matter relevant to the thrust of the inquiry.

He explained that panel would in the course of its assignment interview the former Chairman of the NSITF, Mrs Ngozi Olejeme.

“Also, four ex-executive directors, ex-directors, and Ex-Managing Director, Umar Munir Abubakar are among those to be interviewed.

The panel is to be chaired by Mr Ishaya Awotu, Director of Finance and Accounts in the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment.

Dr Ifeoma Anyanwutaku, Director, Occupational Safety and Health in the ministry will serve as Secretary, among others.

Ngige urged the panel to be granted unfettered access to enable it carry out its assignment without hindrance as hitherto witnessed.

He also announced a compulsory 30 days leave in the first instance for some officers of the fund.

They include: Adebayo Aderibigbe, General Manager Legal; Henry Ekhasomi, Deputy General Manager Finance; and Ishmael Agaka, General Manager Social Security.

Others are: Zwalda Ponkap, Deputy General Manager Internal Audit; Catherine Ugbe, General Manager Information; and Dr Kelly Nwagha, General Manager Compensation.

He called on members of the panel to discharge their duties with professionalism and diligence required in the public service.

In a remark, Prof. Stephen Ocheni, Minister of State for Labour and Employment, said the exercise was a commitment of the President Buhari administration’s ongoing war against corruption.

Ocheni urged the panel to remain steadfast to the terms of its assignment.

Similarly, Chairman of the Panel, Awotu pledged the commitment of the members to successfully discharge their assignment and thanked the leadership of the ministry for the confidence reposed in them.

The panel has six weeks to turn in its reports.

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