Of James Faleke' spite and Odumaki’s sadist epistle

By Ngige Nwachukwu on 17/07/2020

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The bitter attacks on the Hon. Minister of Labour and Employment, Sen. Chris Ngige by Yinka Odumaki in some Nigerian dailies are not a case in isolation. It is certainly not a denouement, rather a support to a well-planned onslaught by some members of the Lagos axis of the All Progressives Congress (APC). It has a background. The suspended Managing Director of Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund(NSITF) Bayo Somefun, is a Redeemed Christian Church of God Pastor and an ally of the Vice President, Yemi Osinbanjo. Kemi Nelson, Executive Director, Operations of the Fund is the South West Zonal and Lagos State Woman Leader of the APC. Two other Executive Directors also suspended are Jasper Azutalam, Executive Director, Finance and Investment and Tijani Darazo, Executive Director, Administration, besides other members of the senior management of the fund. 

A glance through the names and titles above will quickly disclose why Lagos is hurt! Why old enemies are re-uniting in love (there was no love lost lately between Odumakin and the Bourdillion caucus). You now understand why Ngige must be shut down at all cost?  Therefore, the onslaught led by Hon. James Faleke, enacted in the motion on the floor of the House of Representatives, in clear violation of parliamentary privileges, and the Speaker, yielding the opportunity for him to malign both Sen. Ngige and  wife with unsubstantiated allegations, is only  a scene in a series of  detailed acts  . 

But why was the Executive and top managers of the NSITF suspended? According to a statement by the Deputy Director, Press at the Ministry of Labour and Employment, Charles Akpan on July 2, 2020, the effected persons were suspended because of “the preliminarily established prima facie infractions on the extant Financial Regulations and Procurement Act, and other acts of gross misconduct.”  It went on to list  some of the infractions uncovered as “N3.4 billion  spent on non- existent staff training,  split into about 196 different consultancy contracts in order to evade the Ministerial Tenders Board and Federal Executive Council approval. Non- existent, unexecuted N2.3 billion, which was documented and paid and the outstanding N1.1 billion awaiting payment without any job done - all totaling N3.4 billion.” 

The release added that the construction of fourteen zonal/ regional offices running into billions of naira was a policy issue which ought not to have been done without the Board or Ministerial approval. It also termed it duplications. The Ministry also blamed the suspended executive of flagrant rejection of the Minister’s directive not to pay for the contracts allegedly done in 2019 until the completion of a procurement audit.  According to a report in The Nation newspaper, the Minister at a public hearing on Tuesday, July 23, listed other infractions “to include extra-budgetary spending, making payment for unapproved expenditure, overspending on administrative issues, irregular direct payment from the Employees Compensation Act, irregularities in staff group assurance policy and making payment for Assurance policy without a policy cover.

Payment of about N180 million to solicitors hired without the approval of the Attorney General of the Federation to handle a case of a former employee who was supposed to be paid about N60 million.” 

Some of these payments were said to have been effected without the signature of the Managing Director. They were also accused of paying themselves the sum of N9.8m as leave grant amidst other unjustifiable jumbo pays.

While Yinka Odumaki wants Sen. Ngige to sweep all these under the carpet to cement the new Igbo/Yoruba relations which he said he was building, Hon. James Faleke could not understand why his constituents could fall  ‘culpable’ dramatis personae, in a country turning to a one large theatre of  absurd drama of corruption. He had unrhetorically asked Ngige at the Public hearing, “as a father and statesman, if you have many children and they sinned, will you mete out equal punishment to all irrespective of age?  The answer is for the audit panel if you ask me but the Minister told the committee that the suspension was important to enable unhindered access to vital records to  the auditors.    

Let’s shift proper to the House of Representatives public hearing where Faleke led his squad in a rehearsed parliamentary theatrics to shame Sen. Ngige, same very day, Yinka released his epistolary  bunkum. 

Ngige had raised seventy-four points evidence-based infractions committed by the suspended management and emphasised the neutrality of the Board audit panel to ensure justice to all, dismissing cynical suggestions that the innocent could be scathed. The Minister also smashed the stubborn suspicion of non-compliance with due process, by submitting for perusal by the committee, the original copies of the presidential directive as well as attending correspondents, routed through the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.

Recall that the Chairman of the NSITF board, Austin Isere had earlier confirmed that approval for the suspension was conveyed to the  Minister in a correspondence referenced SGF 47/511/T/99 on June 30, 2020.

But this means little to Falake who along with his recruits among his colleagues, were irreversibly headed in a premeditated direction.

The interjection of obtrusive and extraneous issues was to enable them thwart the guidelines, dominate the subject matter of the hearing,  auction the process and mislead its objective. 

The attempt came a cropper as they were resisted by other members who raised a point of order.  The calm vehemence with which Faleke made presentation, nearly taking over the seat of the suspended Managing Director, whom composure failed in the face of cascading facts, cleared every doubt about his motive which was to establish the innocence of the suspended team, amidst badgering contrary evidence or acquiesce but expand the bracket of guilt, by the inclusion of his alleged ministerial interference. 

Ferrying in issues that have neither substance nor semblance to the Committee’s guidelines was an attempt to cast the net wider and deeper in a water that has refused to yield a catch.  If the voting pattern in Ngige’s Idemili in 2019 presidential election, which suddenly became Faleke’s obsession is no business of the inquest, the geo-statistical balancing of employment ratio in the Ministry of Labour dropped on the committee’s table, as sheer absurdity.  The man groped for Lucifer’s fallen wings in the cathedral- all to impugn and ridicule the Labour Minister. The wife of the Minister had a day earlier established her neutrality, remarking the absence of nexus to the NSITF matters while stressing the obligatory role imposed in discharge of duties, as assigned by the Head of Service, yet Faleke still stuck to self-ridicule. The instant fallout is what Faleke got with that Mushin boy spurts that has hit a nerve with Nigerians.  Ngige deserves every respect, such that Faleke accords his mentor in Lagos is the summary of that outburst.  

But while Odumakin and Faleke claim patriotic inquisitors, championing  geo-statistical balancing in employment, they should have obliged the public a comparative graphics of situation in every ministry and agency especially where men and women from their zone are in charge to draw conviction on the howl of nepotism. And whereas the duo chose ethnic prism in interpreting the goings-on in NSITF, they artfully diminished the fact that three of the suspended officials are Igbo.   

Many had expected Odumaki especially, to find out why his fellow comrades in the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) usually impassioned over labour injustice, allowed the suspended management to carry their cross.  The organised labour is the most vibrant, visible and discerning of the tripartite community for reasons of direct representation of workers, who majorly suffer the brunt of mal-administration . It is instructive the organised labour, being  fully in picture of the rot in the fund, threw its weight behind the Minister.

Had Ngige acted with bias, it is labour who would first raise a hoot  and not the bourgosie in the organised private sector, always protective of capital interest. Interestingly, the role of NECA in the recent history of NSITF has been inglorious. Its representatives in the immediate past board were hand in glove, in the massive looting of the agency for which they are still standing trial.  

Beyond the surface, the entire unfolding game looks a deliberate effort to pull down Dr. Ngige, by  diminishing  his towering credentials that make him  eminent in the 2023 general elections permutations. Nothing better expresses this than the move by Yinka and Faleke to link the war on corruption in the NSITF to ethnic cleansing, and backgrounding it with a subtle threat to the quest of the entire Igbo people to aspire to the presidency of a country that its son, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe laboured more than his contemporaries to found. Particularly, Odumaki’s misplaced epistle, laced with self-righteousness and controverting bias are such that create the chasm between the brothers aboding the East and West of the Niger River.

 

Nwachukwu is an aide to the Minister of Labour and Employment

 

Source Whirlwindnews.com

Posted on July, 24 2020

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