Mak­ing ef­fec­tive use of so­cial in­sur­ance fund

Daily Trust - - BUSINESS - By Si­mon Echewo­fun Sun­day

So­cial in­sur­ance has been de­fined as a pro­gramme where risks are trans­ferred to and pooled by an or­ga­ni­za­tion, of­ten gov­ern­men­tal, that is legally re­quired to pro­vide cer­tain ben­e­fits to em­ploy­ees.

Re­cently, there were some ef­forts by the federal govern­ment to cater for the so­cial and fi­nan­cial needs of em­ploy­ees be­gin­ning from federal em­ploy­ees to state and lo­cal em­ploy­ees. Pri­vate in­vestors could also key into the new ini­tia­tive to en­hance the wel­fare con­di­tions of their vast em­ploy­ees.

Govern­ment said it plans to achieve this with the es­tab­lish­ment of an Em­ploy­ees Scheme un­der the con­trol of the Nigeria So­cial In­sur­ance Trust Fund (NSITF) to cater for its federal and state em­ploy­ees.

The Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor, Nigeria So­cial In­sur­ance Trust Fund (NSITF), Mr. Munir Abubakar, while ex­plain­ing the new pro­gramme in a re­cent in­ter­view, con­firmed that ef­forts are on to ex­pand this scheme as Nige­rian em­ploy­ees are des­per­ate for it. His words: “Nige­ri­ans are ea­ger for us to take Em­ploy­ees Com­pen­sa­tion Scheme (ECS) to them. But let me as­sure that the Fund is do­ing ev­ery­thing within its pow­ers to en­sure all our of­fices na­tion­wide are func­tion­ing.”

While giv­ing de­tails about the process of pay­ments un­der the scheme, he stated that there are two sides to the pay­ment for federal em­ploy­ees com­pris­ing Min­istries, De­part­ments and Agencies (MDAs) that are Trea­sury-funded and other MDAs that are not Trea­sury-funded.

He stated that the first cat­e­gory have been paid for by the federal govern­ment where the sum of N5bn was given. “We are still work­ing with both the Budget Of­fice and the Of­fice of the Ac­coun­tant Gen­eral of the Fed­er­a­tion to rec­on­cile the num­ber of em­ploy­ees cov­ered and the MDAs in­volved,” he said.

For the sec­ond cat­e­gory, he ex­plained that most of the MDAs are pay­ing on their own and the pay­ment comes in tranches. He said, “There are those that are yet to start mak­ing any re­mit­tances but are work­ing hard to en­sure that they start pay­ing in­clud­ing the ar­rears they owe.”

Be­side the progress made so far at the federal level, the NSITF Head ex­plained that ef­forts are on top gear to take the scheme to the state level.

“We have gone very far in en­sur­ing state gov­ern­ments buy into the scheme. The Act­ing Gover­nor of Taraba State has re­ceived us warmly and has even ap­proved that we carry out in­ter­ac­tive ses­sions with his key staff and he had given his words for the state con­tri­bu­tion to be paid,” he dis­closed.

Other states the Fund has in­ti­mated so far in­clude Edo state where the gover­nor, Com­rade Adams Osh­iom­hole, as­sured that the state would join the Scheme; also La­gos state govern­ment has been vis­ited on its par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Scheme. The di­rec­tor noted that ar­range­ments have been com­pleted to see the gov­er­nors of Akwa Ibom, Cross River and Bayelsa states soon, not­ing that they are get­ting states and lo­cal govern­ment coun­cils to par­tic­i­pate in the scheme, which is an on­go­ing ex­er­cise.

The agency how­ever de­cried the lack of in­fra­struc­ture and in­ad­e­quate staffing but said it is not de­terred by such.

He stated that “the scheme is at its in­fancy, and ex­pect­ing all the fa­cil­i­ties to be in place be­fore we be­gin in some states that we were pre­vi­ously not op­er­at­ing in, will be to fur­ther slow down the process.”

He said NSITF Scheme which op­er­ated be­tween 1994 and 2004 had se­ri­ous ICT chal­lenges that neg­a­tively af­fected its im­age and func­tions.

“The

em­ploy­ees’ com­pen­sa­tion scheme we are run­ning to­day is prin­ci­pally IT driven. I am equally happy to state that the NSITF Board of Di­rec­tors right from day one, iden­ti­fied In­for­ma­tion Tech­nol­ogy as key to the suc­cess of the scheme,” he said.

He said “the com­pre­hen­sive com­put­er­i­za­tion pro­gramme will take care of our col­lec­tions, ben­e­fit pay­ments and reg­is­tra­tion among other tasks.”

Cur­rently, the agency has adopted collection agency sys­tem to help in pay­ment collection. “It is true we have em­ployed some work­ers in the last few months, but ap­point­ing collection agents is a com­ple­men­tary ef­fort aimed at en­sur­ing that collection is made in those ar­eas that are dif­fi­cult to pen­e­trate.”

As Nige­ri­ans con­tinue to have ex­pec­ta­tions on the scheme, the agency has said it is seek­ing to ex­pand its staff strength to de­liv­er­ing qual­ity ser­vice across the fed­er­a­tion.

He noted that ef­forts are on to en­sure that those whose pro­mo­tions may have been stag­nated are re­dressed to the sat­is­fac­tion of all the work­ers.

“What we are do­ing now is novel in the his­tory of this coun­try and it comes with the early chal­lenges. There­fore, the Fund will cer­tainly re­quire more time to be in a po­si­tion to say this is how many it re­quires,” he added. The Fund noted that it is aware of the con­straints faced by old and new mem­ber har­mon­i­sa­tion which it is work­ing on to re­solve.

It noted that part of the steps taken to ad­dress per­ceived in­jus­tice is set­ting up of a com­mit­tee to ex­am­ine the process. He said, “The man­age­ment un­der­stands that it can­not suc­ceed in an at­mos­phere of ran­cour and that is why we will leave no stone un­turned in en­sur­ing jus­tice is done where most people will have a sense of be­long­ing.”

The di­rec­tor there­fore en­joined ev­ery­one to come to­gether to en­sure the de­liv­ery of qual­ity ser­vice to ev­ery worker that sus­tains workplace in­jury.

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