The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, has threatened legal action against a member of the House of Representatives, James Faleke.
Mr Ngige issued the threat on Tuesday during the hearing of the Adhoc Committee of the House which is investigating an alleged breach of a presidential directive by him.
The Labour Minister is alleged to have suspended top management and executive committee members of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund, (NSITF), although the presidential directive bars ministers from sacking heads of agencies.
The minister had asked Mr Faleke to recuse himself from the hearing since he had already passed judgement on him (Ngige) through his statements on the floor of the House when the motion for the investigation was raised on July 7, 2020.
Mr. Faleke in his response accused Ngige of passing judgment on the board of the NSITF without proper investigation, a statement which infuriated Mr. Ngige who vowed to go to court.
Mr. Faleke had accused Ngige of hijacking the budget of the NSITF and removing the board to cover his tracks.
The minister defended his decision to suspend the board, informing the committee that it was based on a report from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission which uncovered financial fraud in the NSITF.
Dr Ngige added that the suspension of the board was approved by the President.
A lawmaker, Sada Soli, however, questioned the authenticity of the document of approval as claimed by the minister.
Soli out that there were misspelled words and imposition in the photocopy which the minister presented.
He also questioned why the chairman of the board was not affected by the suspension.
The lawmakers are accusing Ngige of nepotism, saying he gave employment to 97 indigenes of Anambra State while the entire North-East got 86.
In his response to the letter’s grammar composition, Ngige said he corrects spelling mistakes daily and the errors in the letter from the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, authorizing the suspension, are not major.
He also presented the original document, suggesting that the photocopy is authentic.
However, he refused to submit the letter to the committee, promising to make it available later.
Meanwhile, a legal adviser in the OSGF, Emmanuel Akisa, confirmed that the letter from the minister requesting the suspension was received.
He also added that the OSGF received a communication from the President directing the immediate suspension of the NSITF management team, pending the outcome of investigations into their actions.
Suspension Of NSITF Boss, 11 Others
On July 2, 2020, the Head of Press and Public Relations at the Ministry of Labour and Employment, Charles Akpan, revealed that the President had approved the immediate, compulsory, and indefinite suspension of Mr Adebayo Somefun, the Managing Director and Chief Executive of the NSITF.
In a statement, Mr Akpan said the President also okayed the suspension of 11 top officials of the agency.
Those suspended are Jasper Azuatalam (Executive Director, Finance and Investment), Olukemi Nelson (Executive Director, Operations), and Tijani Sulaiman (Executive Director, Administration).
Others are Olusegun Bashorun (General Manager, Administration/Human Resources/Maintenance), Lawan Tahir (General Manager, Finance), Chris Esedebe (General Manager, Claims and Compensation), Olodotun Adegbite (Deputy General Manager, Investment and Treasury Management), and Emmanuel Sike (Deputy General Manager, Finance and Accounts).
Also affected by the suspension are Olutoyin Arokoyo (Deputy General Manager/Acting Head, Legal), Dorathy Tukura (Deputy General Manager, Administration), and Victoria Ayantuga (Assistant General Manager, Internal Audit).