Mr. Bayo Somefun, Former Managing Director and Chief Executive of NSITF

N3.4bn Contract Scam: Embezzling Nigerian employee compensation funds at NSITF

*The sacked top Management staff of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund were indicted for defrauding the agency of N3.4billion in 196 different sham consultancy contracts

*The investigative panel recommends Mr. Bayo Somefun, Managing Director and Chief Executive of NSITF and three Executive Directors to refund N181.056million illegal overpayments in salaries, allowances for overseas travels, leave allowances, others to the agency’s treasury

Isola Moses | ConsumerConnect

For betraying their employers and other stakeholders’ trust in the management of funds earmarked for welfare of the Nigerian workers, President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the dismissal of the top management staff of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) over alleged N3.4billion frauds.

The presidential directive also relieved Mr. Bayo Somefun, Managing Director and Chief Executive of NSITF, and Executive Directors (EDs) in charge of Finance, Jasper Azuatalam; Investment, Operations, and Administration, Tijani Sulaiman; and Human Resources, Mrs. Olukemi Nelson, their positions.

Report also indicates that the government equally sacked nine other top management officers hitherto on suspension alongside the MD and EDs for various infractions.

It is recalled that in July 2020, Sen. (Dr.) Chris Ngige, Honourable Minister for Labour and Employment, had inaugurated a Presidential Joint Board and Audit Investigation Panel to investigate alleged N3.4 billion financial breaches at NSITF.

ConsumerConnect gathered the government’s decision, which became effective from July 1, 2020, was sequel to the approval of the recommendations in the Report of the Joint Board and Audit Investigation Panel set up July 2020.

The presidential panel was mandated to investigate the violations of the Public Procurement Act, 2007, and the Financial Regulations in the NSITF.

Mr. Charles Akpan, Spokesman of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment in a statement early this week also confirmed that the indicted NSITF officials were sacked on the recommendations of Sen. (Dr.) Chris Ngige, Honourable Minister for Labour and Employment.

Somefun and his Management staff at the government agency reportedly misappropriated N3.4billion on non-existent staff training split into about 196 different consultancy contracts.

These violations they perpetrated in order to evade the ministerial tender’s due Board and Federal Executive Council (FEC) approvals.

Sen. (Dr.) Chris Ngige, Honourable Minister for Labour and Employment

The statement said: “In approving the implementation of the recommendations in the panel report, the President specifically approved the removal from office of the MD/CE and the three Executive Directors and their immediate replacement from the pool of General Managers of the NSITF and if necessary, sourcing of capable hands from sister corporate organisations to uplift performance in the NSITF.

“Messrs Bayo Somefun, Jasper Azuatalam, Tijani Sulaiman and Mrs. Olukemi Nelson were therefore relieved of their appointments with effect from 1st July, 2020.”

The Ministry’s Spokesman further stated: “Also relieved of their appointments were the nine top management officers on suspension with the MD and EDs who had their appointments terminated compulsorily with some to be retired after demotion in ranks from their present ranks as recommended by the panel.”

The presidential investigative panel further recommended that Mr. Somefun and the three EDs should refund to the NSITF treasury N181.056m being illegal overpayments in salaries, allowances for overseas travels, leave allowances for self and spouses in overseas, house allowance, DSTV and club registration and extraneous allowances not approved by the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission.

Other nine top management staff whose appointments were terminated for various infractions and who have also benefitted from the excess remunerations are also to refund such overpayments to the panel, the statement noted.

The staff are General Manager, Administration, Bashorun Olumide;  General Manager, Finance and Accounts, Alhaji Lawan Tahir;  General Manager, Claims and Compensation, Chris Esedebe;  Deputy General Manager, Finance, Enyinanya Sike and Deputy General Manager, Training, Dorothay Tukura.

Others include Assistant General Manager, Audit, Victoria Ayantuga, Deputy General Manager, Investment, Dotun Adegbite, Deputy General Manager, Legal, Arokoyo Olutoye and Deputy General Manager, Procurement, AbdulRasheed Lawan.

The ministry said the Procurement Department of the NSITF would be staffed with a new team of officers trained from the pool of existing staff and deployed in the department.

Thus, all the staff that had been serving there from 2017–2020 would be removed and made to undergo disciplinary actions for offences ranging from injection of extraneous companies and projects after advertisement and bidding had been concluded, contract splitting, to initiation of procurement contract without budgetary allocation.

The Ministry of Labour and Employment said: “All officers indicted are to receive the appropriate official sanction by the Board.

“The President also approved and directed that the Head of Service of the Federation terminate the appointment and dismiss the erstwhile Head of Procurement Department, Abdulrasheed Lawal, from the public service with effect from the date of suspension.”

Federal Government appoints new Management Board

In furtherance of the implementation of the panel report and recommendations, President Buhari has also approved the appointment of a fresh Management Board for the NSITF.

They include Dr. Michael Akabogu, General Manager, Risk Management Department of the NSITF, as the MD; Mrs. Temitope Akinwale, ED, Finance and Investment Manager, Mrs. Maureen Allagoa, ED, Administration and Mr. Gana Modu, ED, Operations.

The new nominal Director is Mrs. Lauretta Adogu, Director, Department of Occupational Safety and Health, representing the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment.

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