In a recent interaction with members of Labour Correspondents Association of Nigeria (LACAN) in Abuja, the management of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) revealed how the Fund is working assiduously to reposition NSITF for efficiency and effective productivity in the operation of Employees Compensation Scheme (ECS) in the country. CHRISTIAN APPOLOS brings excerpts.
Digitisation is apparently the way forward in the day-to-day running of government agencies as seen in other countries of the world. Private sector organisations have taken the lead and are enormously reaping the gains thereof.
Therefore, the quest for efficiency through automation was judged the best part of information, the management of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund said this to journalists in Abuja recently. This is because digitisation is required for efficiency and effective productivity. And in no small measure, it would importantly curb financial leakages and ultimately put corruption in check, especially in NSITF.
In an opening remark at the interactive meeting with the press, the NSITF General Manager, Corporate Affairs, Mrs Ijeoma Oji-Okoronkwo, said, “The law establishing NSITF requires us to provide adequate compensation to employees who suffer injuries, death, disabilities and occupational diseases in the course of employment and this we have consciously pursued.
“The management of NSITF has commenced the extension of Employees Compensation Scheme (ECS) to the informal sector to ensure that no worker (formal, informal and the organised private sector) is left out from the social security safety net.
“To effectively deliver on our mandate, the Fund sought for approval to embark on the process of the automation of all our processes through the e-NSITF project. I am happy to report to you that the Federal Executive Council (FEC) has approved the project.”
She went on to say, “The e-NSITF will provide the following benefits amongst others; make more finances available for the compensation of claims requests; increase contributions of employers to the pool of funds; block all financial and productivity leakages; improve the service delivery of the Fund to its stakeholders; improve the accountability of each staff of the Fund to their respective job functions; prevent the loss of the Fund’s information and provide information to guide management’s decision.”
Mrs Oji-Okoronkwo further said, “In line with the approval of the President to reposition the Fund for improved productivity, management has conducted training for over 1,531 of our staff in the period under review in strategic areas relating to their competences and job roles.
“Over 300 million has been paid as compensation to injured employees in the last six months. A notable case is Mrs Bassey of Hydrodrive Nigeria Limited, who sustained a spinal cord injury as a result of an accident on her way to work. Asides from being awarded a 100 per cent disability benefit of N4,994,150.18, she is currently on a monthly disability benem of N146,886.00. In the last four months, over 6,000 employers have registered with the scheme, although this is a far cry from the population to be covered, slowly but most assuredly, every Nigerian employer will be registered and benefit from the scheme.
“The Fund has successfully processed a total of 23,455 ECS applications from across the 56 branches of the Fund and issued 22,761 Employees Compensation Certificates in the last four months.
“The NSITF has also been active in corporate social responsibility projects such as its N1,000,000 donation to the Kpakpando Foundation for physically challenged persons in Nigeria. It is sponsorship of vocational skill training as an empowerment drive for randomly selected indigent Nigerians supervised by the Corporate Affairs Department.”
When asked who is actually entitled to access and receive compensation from NSITF, she responded that every Nigerian who suffers injuries, death, disabilities and occupational diseases in the course of work is entitled to receive claims and compensation.
She also clarified that not all workers employed by the government are enrolled in the Fund’s Employees Compensation Scheme. She however stated that while NSITF moves to bring in workers in the organised private sector into the compensation scheme, the agency is aggressively sensitising and campaigning across board towards ensuring that employers of labour both in the formal and informal economy enrol all workers under their employment.
Throwing more light to NSITF’s impact, the Fund’s Managing Director/Executive Officer, Dr Michael Akabogu, said, “The claims and compensations cover medical expenses refund, loss of productivity, disability benefits to injured employees, death benefits to next of kin of deceased employees and retirement benefits to disabled employees.
“Worthy of mention is the peculiar case of a staff of Hydrodrive Nigeria Limited, who worked as a secretary. On January 4, 2019, while waiting at the bus stop on her way to work, a reckless bus driver knocked her down resulting in a fracture to her right hand, spinal cord, and head injury. She was awarded 100 per cent disability and was treated at the Lagoon hospital, Lagos.
“As at the last visit paid to her on January 11, 2022, she was completely bedridden, paralysed in all limbs, unable to speak and completely dependent on her husband. The arrears of disability benefits in the sum of N4,994,150.18 was paid after which the beneficiary was placed on monthly disability benefits in the sum of N146.886.17. This is one out of many services that the NSITF offers to registered employees.”
He further explained, “In addition to capably meeting its obligations under the Employees Compensation Act and the NSlTF Act, the Fund has also committed itself to the ideals of transparency, accountability and prudence in the discharge of its statutory obligations to Nigerians and to its employees.
“In keeping with the directives of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration, all monies standing to the credit of the NSITF are remitted through the Treasury Single Account (TSA) of the Federal Government of Nigeria. The procurement processes of the NSITF are no longer executed by the management board of the NSITF but are now within the purview of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment in accordance with directives from the Presidency.
“This management, in its bid to permanently reposition the Fund, is not only ensuring probity in its financial management but it is also implementing strategic reforms such as the increased utilisation of technology in its operations and the redeployment of staff to departments and units where their skills and competencies are being harnessed and utilised for the good of the Fund and for better service delivery to the Nigerian public.
“Our staff have also not been left out of all our achievements. We have planned and conducted several trainings geared towards increasing staff productivity and turnaround business time.
“This overview of the operations and activities of the NSITF is merely a small glimpse into the many laudable efforts and initiatives of the NSITF in its bid to promote solid security and safety nets for all Nigerians.”
Also, the Fund revealed that it is collaborating with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to effect some reviews to the Employees’ Compensation Scheme, following new challenges thrown up by the emergence of COVID-19 globally.
NSITF General Manager, Claims and Compensation, Nkiru Ogunnaike, said some of the contemporary challenges thrown up by the emergence of COVID-19 which might necessitate a review of the workplace compensation scheme is that a lot of workers in the formal sector now lay claims to having sustained injuries while working from home.
Beyond this, many formal sector workers also lay claims to have contacted COVID-19 while undergoing official duties, hence are entitled to full compensations, she added
According to Ogunnaike, most of the victims reporting for claims are those involved in road traffic accidents either on their way to work or back home. She further explained that there was a challenge on the part of NSITF to ascertain when and where such injuries might have occurred to qualify victims for compensation.
“We all know about the COVID-19 pandemic and we are in talks with the ILO to push for legislation on claims especially when COVID occurred in the course of work.
“For instance, we all know that working from home is still a norm now. We have had cases when people said they got injured while working from home, how do you establish whether an employee got injured from home?
“Most of our claims are on victims who had traffic accidents, these people come around to say they got injured on their way to work or from work, this is one area we will need collaboration with the security agencies like the police or road safety officials to actually ascertain where such incidents happened so as not to misappropriate the compensation on victims.”
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