FG adamant, says Kokori was never NSITF chair nominee

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• Buhari only approved him as chairman Michael Imoudu National Institute of Labour Studies (MINILS)
• Details of Ngige’s row with NLC emerge

There were strong indications yesterday that the Federal Government did not at any time nominate labour hero, Comrade Frank Kokori as chairman of the board of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF).

Labour and Employment Minister  Chris Ngige only recommended Kokori to head the Board of the Michael Imoudu National Institute of Labour Studies (MINILS), highly placed sources told The Nation yesterday.

It was learnt that President Muhammadu Buhari appointed Kokori as the chairman of the labour institute and not NSITF.

It was gathered that following an alleged  N62,358,401,927 scandal in NSITF and the recommendations of the Administrative Panel of Enquiry, the minister  sought the help of the immediate past Commissioner for Insurance of the National Insurance Commission (NAICOM) to shop for a chairman who could help in  reforming NSITF.

The search led to the appointment of Mr. Austin Enajemo – Isire, who the Minister had never met, by President Muhammadu Buhari.

These details are contained in a document on the face-off between the Minister and the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC).

The fact-sheet sighted by our correspondent sheds light on  the appointment of a chairman for the NSITF and the disagreement between  the NLC and Ngige.

The fact-sheet says: “The appointment of the Chairman for the Board of NSITF is a straight forward engagement by the Minister recommending a fit and proper neutral person to Mr. President for appointment. So also   even for the appointment of the MD and EDs.

“Here the ILO principle on tripartite representation comes into play which in this situation does not permit any of the partners to dictate to another on who is to represent them in a meeting, consultations, negotiation or on any joint venture like the NSITF, provided the person nominated has no criminal record against the law of that country.

“So when NLC President approached the Hon. Minister some time  in 2017 to inform him that he and other Social Partner, the then Director-General of Nigeria Employers Consultative Association ( NECA)  submitted an NSITF Chairman nominee to the office of the Vice President, the Minister bluntly told him that it was incongruous for NLC or NECA to do so as it breached the Law and was also an erosion of the Minister’s function to nominate fit and proper persons to the offices listed in the Act.

“Further investigations by the Minister revealed that NECA DG at the time did not participate nor had any hand in the so-called nomination. The Minister promptly wrote to the Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo to point out the anomaly, and informed him that by his discussion with the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), the NSITF was a specialized board that its Chairman needed to be shopped for,  more so with the peculiar financial distress afflicting the organization.

“Ngige said it was not for NLC to make such a nomination in consonance with the Act.

“It was at this point that the Minister discovered that the name forwarded by NLC was that of Comrade Frank Kokori, a veteran NUPENG General Secretary, that the Minister also held in high esteem. Who then submitted Kokori’s name for the chairmanship of the Board of NSITF? Only the NLC President Ayuba Waba can explain this.

“The Tripartite representation of 4 (four) persons for the social partners (i.e. NECA & NLC) having been attained, a neutral chairman was then needed just like in the composition of the Tripartite National Minimum Wage Committee (TNMWC) where a neutral, fit & proper person was called upon to come and Chair because of her cognate experience.”

The document also explains how Ngige accords Kokori respect he deserves as a labour hero.

It adds: “This notwithstanding, the Minister invited Comrade Kokori to a dinner and thereafter asked him to send his Curriculum Vitae for evaluation and told him pointedly that a nomination was made even though incongruous but the Minister will like to get the CV as he did not know his other background except as a Labour Leader – as Former General secretary of NUPENG, that played a formidable role. This was about November 2017. Comrade Kokori sent in his CV for evaluation.

“Many things happened in quick succession thereafter. Before a week, the NLC President wrote a letter of congratulations to Mr. President for appointing Comrade Kokori to Chair the NSITF Board and copied the Minister, then leaked the letter to the media even when the Minister had not made any recommendation to Mr. President.

“All these antics were aimed at blackmailing and railroading the Hon. Minister and Mr. President into a forced acquiescence. Comrade Kokori himself went to Gani Fawehinmi Annual Lecture in January 2018 rained tirade of abuses on the Hon. Minister for delaying his inauguration as Chairman, following his appointment in November, 2017 and accused the Minister of trying to be in-charge of NSITF to award contracts and milk the juice in the place and favour the Ibos and his village people as recruits into the NSITF.

“He threatened to call out NUPENG Members to a “fight” if after one month he is not sworn in. He actually in April 2018 attended the NUPENG NEC in session meeting and reported ‘Minister Ngige’for trying to humiliate him – the freedom fighter of Nigeria’s Democracy.

“He reported the Minister to the Senate Committee on Labour, Productivity, Employment and the House of Representatives counterpart with strongly worded petitions. The Minister attended to the queries by both House Committees of course explaining the situation he met NSITF financially frustrated in November 2015 when he assumed duty and what the situation was and that nomination of Comrade Kokori was irregular and anomalous and that of course this was an Executive responsibility that does not need a Senate screening. He referred the Lawmakers to Section 4(a) of the NSITF Act.

“After this, Comrade Kokori, with the NLC declared “total war” on  the Minister and wrote letters in quick succession asking Mr. President to “sack” the Minister for sabotaging his good intention of appointing Comrade Kokori and for delaying the good job NLC and Kokori wanted to bring to the place, even though they had members in the former Board, who looked the other way when N62 Billion Government and employers contributions were “feasted” on after butchering.

“Not done at the June 12, 2018 ceremony where President Buhari honoured the Late MKO Abiola as President, Comrade Kokori after delivering his Goodwill message reported to the President that his Minister Ngige has deliberately refused to swear him into the Chairmanship position of the NSITF Board. Of course, Mr. President had had more briefing from his Minister.”

The document explained that only  Mr. Austin Enajemo – Isire was appointed by the President to be the chairman of NSITF.

It said: “The Minister in exercise of the functions of his office and recommendations of the Administrative Panel of Enquiry sought the help of the immediate past Commissioner for Insurance of NAICOM and got a square peg to fill the square hole.

“That was how Mr. Austin Enajemo – Isire,  a Chartered Accountant, Fellow Chartered Institute of Insurance of Nigeria (CIIN), Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN), and Chartered Institute of Taxation (ACTI) came in. This candidate has a rich background needed as an Insurance Executive to chart a new course for the NSITF. The Minister had never met Mr. Isire until he was recommended after the CV evaluation.

“The  Minister found this nominee fit and proper person and recommended him to Mr. President, who had no difficulty in approving the nomination in consonance with the relevant NSITF Act.

“The Minister also recommended Comrade Kokori to head the Board of the Michael Imoudu National Institute of Labour Studies (MINILS) a Diploma awarding institute named after a veteran Labour Leader, Michael Imoudu and the President magnanimously approved.

“At this point, some NLC and NUPENG officers complained to the Minister and rejected MINILS Board because it is not  juicy.

“They said that they and Comrade Kokori had after their meeting  rejected the appointment. They said it is either NSITF or nothing, even as the Honourable Minister had never at any time nominated Comrade Kokori for NSITF Board Chairman.

“All attempts to explain to them the financial situation of the NSITF required a man with financial and insurance cognate experience fell on deaf ears, as the NLC claimed it was their right to  produce the Chairman and that they have made their nomination and that the contribution in the NSITF is “workers money.”

The document clarifies why the board of NSITF is yet to be inaugurated because of disruption by some labour leaders.

It adds: “Using all antics, when the full list of the Board Members was sent for screening at the DSS, the NLC representatives dragged their feet,  refusing to go for the screening in October, 2017 when the Minister was ready to inaugurate the Board. At a time, one of the nominees dropped off from the Board without the NLC informing nobody. It took the Minister’s effort to get this information and wrote the NLC in January, asking for their nominees – Comrades Peter A. Adeyemi and Ibrahim Khaleel to make themselves available to the DSS for screening. Khaleel underwent screening in late March, 2019 and Adeyemi was replaced by Adeyanju who was also screened in April, 2019.

“After the security clearance of the Chairman and other nominees, an inauguration was arranged for them on the 18thApril, 2019. This event was however aborted as the programme was disrupted by the invasion of the Hon. Minister’s Conference Room by the NLC and NUPENG members with NLC President seizing the Honourable Minister’s Conference Room singing solidarity song in a lightening operation in which the staff of the Ministry and Honourable Minister’s office were man handled and beated up  and the entire Ministry was taken over by hoodlums protesting against the nomination of the Chairman of Board who they insisted, should be Comrade Frank Kokori or nobody else.

“Meanwhile, arrangements are being made to inaugurate the duly constituted board as soon as possible.”

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