Opinion

Letter To Dr Chris Ngige, By Odumakin

Dear Dr Ngige, 

I write with pain in my heart as someone who invested so much emotion on you when you had your ordeals as Governor in Anambra State in the hands of godfathers. I remember a medical doctor from Anambra who is my friend telling me in those years that anybody who knows you well would understand what you were going through. He said you were ready to present yourself almost like a house help to your godfather then when you sought power only to raise your hands up immediately you got what you wanted. I told him that the office you occupied deserved some respect which I felt your godfather was violating notwithstanding all the Okija indignities. 

My initial idea was to bring to the attention of Chief John Nwodo all the disturbing reports I am hearing lately. 

Chief Nwodo is one of the finest Nigerians I have worked with in recent years to reconstruct the country and repair Igbo-Yoruba relationship. I cannot forget the two nights I spent in his country home in 2018 during which he recalled the experience of how he was elected the president of the University of Ibadan Students Union as an Igbo Student over a Yoruba opponent on his soil. 

He remembered with fondness the Yoruba lady who was on his campaign trail and went to Zik Hall to canvas for support when some wild boys started pouring water on her. She stood still and drenched. At a point, the boys became guilt-filled and they stopped pouring water on her, but the first words from her lips were “Vote John Nwodo.” 

They became lovers but the opposition to intermarriage stood on their way. A relative showed up in court in London that they needed parental consent to get married. They succumbed to this social pressure at a point and had to go different routes in marriage. But as fate would have it they both lost their spouses months apart down the line in life. 

Dr Ngige, it appears you have been working against the great work we have been doing over the years to build an inclusive country with your conduct in office and I was shocked when a friend told me recently that you approached him to join your campaign for 2023 presidency. What leadership do you want to provide that is different from what we are complaining against if you cannot dispute the following figures of appointments in the Ministry of Labour under you? 

SUMMARY OF RECRUITMENT FROM 2016-18 REGION BY REGION 

Total recruited in 2016=143 

Total recruited in 2017=137 

Total recruited in 2018=330 

Total from 2016-2018=610 

North Central=77 

North East=94 

North West=88 

South East=189 

South South =89 

South West=73 

A breakdown of 2018 alone shows the following 

Total recruitment in 2018=330 

 North Central=52 

North East =36 

North West=48 

South East=91 

South South =53 

South West ==50 

(Anambra alone had 50 from South East) 

Where is any sense of equity in all these? 

You have also been in the news lately for the purported dissolution of the NSITF by the President only for the fact to come out that you exercised the power you don’t have to unilaterally dissolve the management, bypassing the board and official of the Secretary to the Federal Government. 

It was a balanced statement by NECA that faulted your step in a very clear manner as follows: 

Suspension of Top Management of NSITF – An Abuse of Processes: NECA Urges Respect for Corporate Governance and Rule of Law 

Following the announced suspension of the top management and executive committee of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) by the Honourable Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator (Dr.) Chris Ngige, the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA) urges caution and respect for rules, Civil Service procedures, the enabling Act governing the Fund. 

Speaking in Lagos, the Director-General (DG) of NECA, Dr. Timothy Olawale, stated, “We received with shock the news of the purported suspension of the top management and Executive Committee of the NSITF on the basis of a prima facie infraction on the Financial Regulation and Procurement Act, apart from other gross misconduct actions…… Our shock was premised on the fact that all known decorum, rule of corporate governance and well-publicised disciplinary procedures approved by the President and released by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, which was put in place to stem the arbitrary removal of Chief Executive Officers of Government Agencies and to ensure stability in the system, were totally disregarded.” 

The NECA DG averred that “the Board of the Fund was duly constituted and inaugurated by the Honourable Minister of Labour and Employment in line with the enabling Act governing the NSITF and activities of the Board. As such, observed acts of misconduct in the Fund ought to have been brought to the knowledge of the Board for necessary actions as it unfolded. The Board to which the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA) and other statutory Institutions like the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), etc. are members were not aware of any of the claims made by the Minister as a subject before it.” 

Speaking further on the right course of action, Dr. Olawale expressed that “in the spirit of appropriateness and respect for the rule of law and directive by the President as contained in Government’s Disciplinary Circular as released by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, the Honourable Minister ought to have referred the matter through the Permanent Secretary to the Governing Board (which is still in existence), for necessary action in line with the relevant provisions of the Establishment Act and the Principles guiding Chapters 3 and 16 of the Public Service Rules. The Governing Board would then follow due process, issue relevant officers queries requesting explanations on the specific acts complained about, and then forward its findings and recommendations to the Hon. Minister for further consideration and necessary action. It is then that the Honourable Minister can recommend to the Government (the President through the SGF, as the case may be, for necessary action. This time-tested and institutionalised procedure was not respected nor acknowledged.” 

While urging respect for the principles of corporate governance and the rule of law, Dr. Olawale advised that “the NSITF should not be run outside the laws that established it. It is our candid opinion that the purportedly suspended top management be allowed to continue their lawful duties and the observed infractions on the Financial Regulation and Procurement Act and every other act of gross misconduct in the Fund be referred to the duly constituted Board for attention and appropriate action, pending the conclusion of the Audit by Bureau of Public Enterprises and the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation. 

Concluding his remarks, the NECA Boss noted that “member-companies represented by NECA are the major contributors (of over 90% of the NSITF revenue) to the fund, thus, we owe our nation and constituents the responsibility to ensure that right things are done under our watch. We have no doubt that the Honourable Minister will respect these positions of NECA as it is in tandem with the avowed commitment of the Government of President Muhammadu Buhari to respect the rule of law.” 

There have been so many stinking allegations coming out of all these such as nepotism, cronyism and insertion of “lover” and other personal interests. And the minister has also been accused of inflating the budget of NSITF with N1.2b and five SUVs.Where is integrity in all these? 

You need to come clean of the serious allegations that have come against you in this saga, not only for your rumored interest in the highest office in the land but for the integrity of the office you presently hold. 

With highest regards. 

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