By Christian Appolos
Digitization is apparently the way forward in the day to day running of government agencies as seen in other countries of the world. The private sector organizations have taken the lead and are enormously reaping the gains thereof.
Therefore, the quest for efficiency through automation was judged the best part of informations the management of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund revealed to journalists in Abuja recently. This is because digitization is the required need for efficiency and effective productivity. And in no small measure, it will importantly curb financial leakages and ultimately put corruption in check, especially in NSITF.
Speaking in her 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 ECS to the informal sector to ensure that no worker (formal, informal and the organized private sector) is left out from the social security safety net.
“To effectively deliver on our mandate, the F und 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 revealed; “The e-NSITF will provide the following benefits amongst others. Make more finances available for the compensation of claims request. Increase contributions of employers to the pool of fund. 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 buttressed; “In line with the approval of the President to reposition the Fund for improved productivity, Management has conducted trainings for over 1,531 of our staff in the period under review in strategic areas relating to their competences and job roles.
“Over Three Hundred 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% 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 six thousand 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 Twenty-Three Thousand, Four Hundred and Fifty-Five (23,455) ECS applications from across the 56 branches of the Fund and issued Twenty-two thousand, Seven hundred and Sixty-One (22,761) Employees Compensation Certificate in the last four months.
“The NSITF has also been active in corporate social responsibility projects such as: its one million-naira (N1,000,000) donation to the Kpakpando Foundation for physically challenged persons in Nigeria. It’s sponsorship of vocational skill training as an empowerment drive for randomly selected indigent Nigerians supervised by the Corporate Affairs Department.
“This is a summarized version of the activities that has been undertaken in the period under review, as the session progresses, more details will be provided.”
When asked who is actually entitled to access and receive compensation from NSITF, she responded that every Nigerian is who suffer 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 government are enrolled in the Fund’s employees compensation scheme. She however stated that while NSITF move to bring in workers in the organized private sector into compensation scheme, the agency is vehemently sensitizing and campaign across board towards ensuring that employers of labour both in the formal and informal economy enroll all workers under their employment.
Throwing more light to NSITF’s impacting efforts, 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 the 4th of January 2019, while waiting at the bus stop on her way to work, a reckless bus driver knocked her down resulting to a fracture to her right hand, spinal cord, and head injury. She was awarded 100% disability and was treated at the Lagoon hospital. Lagos.
“As at the last visit paid to her on 11th January 2022, she was completely bedridden, paralyzed 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 of out of many services that the NSITF offers to the registered employees.”
He further explained; “Transparency, Accountability, and Prudence. In addition to capably meeting its obligations under the Employees Compensation Act, and the NSlTF Act, 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 Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) are remitted through the Treasury Single Account (TSA) of the Federal Government of Nigeria. ln addition to the Treasury Single Account (TSA) by the NSITF, 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 hnancial management. but it is also implementing strategic reforms such as the increased utilization of technology in its operations and the redeployment of staff to departments and units where their skills and competencies are being harnessed and utilized 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 sooid 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, Barrister 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 explain that there is 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.”