by Fejiro Oliver
President Goodluck Jonathan may have lost the election and is victimized by many Nigerians for failing to put Nigerians back on the path of greatness. This writer is not exempted as one of the core persons who used the Social Media effect to discredit him, and still do up till date. If only he had done to the rest agencies what he did to the Nigerian Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) by appointing one of Africa’s best corporate guru, Ngozi Olejeme to take charge, perhaps the story surrounding his loss would have been different today. Just perhaps, he may have been preparing for his swearing in for a second time in few days from now. Despite my condemnation of him; I cannot take away the credit he deserves.
As one who is very familiar with the social media and its power to make or mar an individual, agency or a government; I get reports concerning Olejeme on my news desk, and I begin to wonder where all this evening school writers were when the name NSITF was never known in the country until she came on board. It beats my imagination when we forget that the agency was never a place to be considered a career centre until she was appointed to revive it.
There is no painting the fact that NSITF only existed in government papers and not in the minds of Nigerians, but all of a sudden; it has become the choice place to be considered for Nigerians seeking employment. The Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) was established by Act No. 73 of 1993 to succeed the defunct National Provident Fund with mandate to provide a Social Insurance Scheme for employees in the Organized Private Sector. Prior to the enactment of the Pension Reform Act of 2004, it can be said that the Fund executed this mandate to the satisfaction of all.
However, with the coming of the Pension Reform Act, also called PRA 2004, though desirable in all of its ramifications, mark a turning point in the existence of the NSITF was on the flip side a big challenge for NSITF. Before the Act, NSITF had operated as a very successful government Agency from 1994 to2004. And just as it was about to stabilize as a Pensions provider came PRA 2004 and everything halted for NSITF. In fact, the Fund was almost disbanded.
Nigerians may not know but they deserve to know that the NSITF they love today once had less than 200 staff on its payroll before the coming of the Board Chairman, with most of the staffs resigning in droves to more lucrative agencies, as salaries were not paid. A staff tells it better what the death zone called NSITF was before Olejeme mounted the saddle.
“She has given life back to a dead organization that is today providing employment to hundreds of Nigerians and paying injury claims promptly to workers under the Employees Compensation Scheme, ECS, of the Fund. Like an amazon she fought from all fronts to reposition the agency in the mind of government, stakeholders and the people. She was the person that led the pressure on government to sign into law the Employees Compensation Act, ECA, 2010 that gave life back to the Fund. Getting the law passed by the National Assembly and getting President Jonathan to sign it into law were no mean feats.
To people who understand the workings of government, these are lifetime achievements that cannot be glossed over by this kind of evil propelled campaign of calumny. Dr Olejeme again moved to win the confidence of stakeholders to buy-in to the Employees Compensation Scheme, ECS, set up to activate the ECA. The implementation of this Scheme, the first of its kind in the country, has ensured that workers in the country receive compensation for injuries sustained at the workplace or in the course of going to work. Claims are being promptly paid. Unlike other workers schemes, the ECS does not require the worker to prove his or her case.
Only recently Olejeme again successfully got government to approve a social security package that now covers all categories of Nigerians, akin to what is operational in the developed world. The law providing this cover has been passed by the National Assembly, it is only waiting for the signature of the President”
NSITF IN THE EYES OF THE WORLD
Those who want write fail to tell Nigerians that until Olejeme became the Board Chairman, NSITF can only be classified as a local wing player with no international link, but in her five years of leadership, the agency can boast of a training relationship with ILC (International Labour Training Center) in Turin, Italy, where 26 staff have been sent to be trained on compensation scheme.
Umar Munir Abubakar who is the agency Managing Director/Chief Executive of the fund and was the Director of Administration when the PRA 2004 was enacted is among those who searched for ways on how the agency can benefit from international relationship, especially within the Africa continent, by looking for the ones who operates the same kind of scheme with NSITF. Of course they found a partner in Zambia who calls theirs ‘Workers Compensation Fund’ which has been operating since 1942. In his own words “So we identified Zambia, we talked to them, they asked us to send our people for attachment which we did. And right now as I am talking to you, we have a working relationship between us and Zambia workers compensation fund. Some people were there for some months on attachment. I, myself and some staff went to south Africa, we went to their compensation fund and studied it”
AND SHE CAUSED CHANGE IN THE AGENCY ICT
The ICT met by Olejeme which was in place from 1994 to 2004 was never functional as there were lots of problems, with inability to produce statement of accounts which set the agency up against clients, since they could not produce enough data and records to show. What the attention seeking writers don’t know is that apart from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) NSITF is the only agency in the federation that has Oracle in Social Security Solution and one of the best in Africa. If this is no mean feat, wait. Oracle chose the Olejeme led institution as the best public institution in Africa!
Internationally Abubakar NSITF has chucked up some achievements under its belt. Within the last three years of its operations, Nigeria was elected as a member of the ISSA bureau. Stakeholders say this is a major achievement for Nigeria.
INovember last year there was a social security conference in Doha, Qatar where the MD was elected member of the ISSA bureau. And the last time appeared in the bureau was well over 10years ago or about 15 years when Ahmed Rufai (the former MD of NSITF) was elected a member.
Apart from Nigeria, other countries that are in the Bureau are Liberia, Cote d’Ivoire and Tanzania. The agency has been given hosting right ISSA technical seminar in Nigeria, which is coming up in January, next year.
DESPITE CRITICISM, ECOMIUMS STILL POUR
Chief R.U Uche who is the President of Nigerian Employers Consultative Association (NECA) and a member of the Board of the Fund says of her“As you know a healthy work force is number one item for increasing productivity, as it is now, we have been very much the witness to the idea that the Fund has grown in numbers from year to year. From a Very modest beginning in 2011 we are talking about, maybe, tenfold increase since then. We are happy for that”
“She is a woman that has passion for social security and the welfare of employees and it has shown both by the way she conducts the Board meetings and the way we have been able to implement this Act to the benefit of employees, she is truly a leader”
Also speaking on the person on the Chairman of the Board, Dr OlusegunOshinowo, Director General of (NECA) a major stakeholder in the affairs and operations of the NSITF says the appointment of Dr Olejeme has been critical to the successes recorded by the Fund so far.
“She has provided commendable leadership, she is a team player, I must say, and she has enormous respect of the social partners and to that extent we would want to say that the scheme has done very well”
Dr Emeka Wogu who was the immediate past Minister of Labour and Productivity, the supervising ministry of the NSITF refused to crucify her saying “I have not heard any incidences of conflicts or conflicts between the Board and management, not to my knowledge, so that means that underscores the administrative sagacity of the distinguish lady, the Chairman Dr Olejeme and we have not had any reason to say she has not done her job as a Board Chairman diligently, she is a nice woman, she is a woman who was consistent on the need to have a new NSITF with a new face”
*** Fejiro Oliver is an investigative journalist who was abducted by the government of Niger State in 2014 for exposing the rots in the State and the corrupt governance style of Governor Babangida Muazu Aliyu
To be continued…