Making effective use of social insurance fund
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.
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.