By Bukola Olasanmi
President Muhammadu Buhari has defended the refusal of Chris Ngige, minister of labour and employment, to swear in Frank Kokori as the chairman of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) board.
In a statement on Sunday, Femi Adesina, presidential spokesman, said Kokori has also been redeployed by the president to now head the board of Michael Imoudu National Institute for Labour Studies (MINILS).
Ngige has been at loggerheads with some NSITF officials including Kokori following his refusal to inaugurate the board of the agency.
Buhari subsequently appointed Austin Enajemo-Isire to replace Kokori.
But the inauguration of the new board has been stalled as a result of protests by the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) who insisted Kokori must be sworn in as the board chairman.
Adesina, however, said the minister’s decision not to inaugurate the board as well as other actions toward the “repositioning” of the agency “were part of the special work plan approved for the Honourable Minister by Mr. President.”
He lamented that the NSITF was “riddled with corruption between 2012 – 2015” which resulted in a loss of about N48 billion.
“All actions taken by the Honourable Minister of Labour and Employment towards the resuscitation and repositioning of this ailing agency, including the Administrative Panel of Inquiry into the affairs of NSITF and the suspension of the inauguration of the board in 2018 were part of the special work plan approved for the Honourable Minister by Mr. President,” he said.
He further said Enejamo-Isire and other members of the board appointed by the president will be inaugurated on Monday in Abuja.
“Finally, the Presidency has noted with deep concern and regrets, the events that culminated in a skirmish at the private residence of the Hon. Minister of Labour and Employment, and condemns it, in its entirety,” he added.
“However, in the spirit of reconciliation, the Presidency appeals for calm from the NLC and the Ministry of Labour and Employment officials, as there are ongoing efforts to reconcile the NLC leadership with the Ministry of Labour and Employment, led by their Minister who has doggedly been fighting the cause of Nigerian workers whenever their issue is discussed by government, the latest being the enactment of the new National Minimum Wage Act 2019.”