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How Ngozi Olejeme is transforming NSITF into a world-class institution; her methods and tactics, By Francis Akwu

By News Express on 06/05/2015

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The Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) was established by Act No. 73 of 1993 to replace the defunct National Provident Fund with the mandate to provide a Social Insurance Scheme for employees in the Organised Private Sector, prior to the enactment of the Pension Reform Act 2004.

NSITF as an organisation has undergone series of transformation necessitated by the dynamism of time and the growing aspirations of the Nigerian work force as well as the pressure on the Federal Government to meet up with the challenges and expectations of Nigeria’s vast labour industry and global best practice in the provision of a modern social security scheme.

In June 2004, the Pension Reform Act was enacted. It resulted in the transfer of the pension aspect of the Social Insurance Scheme it was running to a Pension Administrator – and the enactment of a by Law that set up Trustfund Pensions Plc – a new Pension Fund Administrator (PFA) – to which NSITF transferred over N54 billion of its assets.

However, the lifeline for NSITF’s continued existence and operation as a social insurance advocate and provider of employee compensation benefit found its relevance and power from Section 71(2) of the Pension Reform Act 2004.

Under the new legal regime, NSITF had five years (from 2004 to 2009) to complete the transfer of pension assets and liabilities to the pension administrator and the Fund experienced administrative upheavals in the years that immediately followed due to the absence of the right leadership to engineer the process of the social insurance advocacy services and the right approach to galvanise and readapt the employee compensation bill to fruition and final take off.  Then came the messiah in the person of Dr. (Mrs.) Ngozi Olejeme.

Institutional re-adaptation of NSITF further exposed the weakness of its management as the administrative process of the Fund was marred with incompetence arising from lack of purpose, creativity, low motivation, frustration and disenchantment amongst the left-over staff – these problems were evident in the Fund’s inability and unconcerned efforts to drive the employee compensation process that was before the National Assembly. The unsettled nature of the Fund at that time made it very obvious that it was in dire need of, not only direction but also a dynamic and witty leadership to help refocus its strength and harness its potentials and opportunities to actualise its goals and objectives.

June 2009 marked a turning point in the history of the NSITF when Dr. (Mrs.) Ngozi Olejeme was appointed Chairman of the Board of the Fund, closely followed by Alhaji Umar Munir Abubakar’s appointment as the Managing Director/CE by the then President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. Dr. Olejeme’s appointment was overwhelmingly welcomed by all stakeholders and publics of the labour industry in Nigeria as her ability to deliver on the NSITF’s mandate was not in doubt. 

On assumption of office as Chairman of the Board of NSITF, Dr. (Mrs) Olejeme understood the task ahead and the need to re-connect and strengthen the working relationship between the Board and Management in order to harmoniously prepare the ground-work for the implementation of the transformation master plan for the Fund – the first being to ensure the passage of the Employee Compensation Bill into Law.

In order to successfully drive the transformation process of the Federal Government through the Fund, the Board and the Management team led by the Chairman undertook a critical assessment of the level of infrastructural development and expansion the Fund needed, reviewed all processes of service delivery and capacity building in line with the mandate and vision of the Fund.

As a trained technocrat and accomplished politician, Dr. Ngozi Olejeme understood that to be able to impact great change and transform NSITF into a virile modern public service institution, a formidable management team was needed, and Alhaji Umar Munir Abubakar earned that trust that bridged the gap. Being a seasoned and astute administrator richly endowed with creative managerial skills, she found a partner in service to Nigeria in Umar Munir Abubakar.

The all-inclusive leadership approach of the Chairman has strengthened the management and administrative operations and capacity of the Fund and cemented its relationship internally and externally with the Board, Management, Staff of the Fund, as well as stakeholders such as the Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA), the National Labour Advisory Council –consisting of the Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria and the National Economic Council. 

The harmonious relationship and understanding between the Fund and stakeholders helped increase public and private sector support for its bid to become an employee compensation service provider, as well as a key player in the socio-economic affairs of the country and as an ace in the labour industry. The strategic approach towards the implementation of the transformation roadmap of the Board of the Fund was no doubt, a game-changer.

The achievements of the NSITF team have greatly impacted on the overall transformation mechanism of the Federal Government of Nigeria through NSITF – by way of employment  generation, infrastructural development and expansion,  training and capacity building, ICT, employee compensation enforcement and compliance,  research, corporate brand visibility,  public relations and media, wealth creation, prudence and accountability.

Under the present Board and Management, NSITF championed the process that repealed the obsolete Workmen’s Compensation Act of 1942 and its replacement with the Employee Compensation Act (ECA) of 2010 and the operation to offer a wide range of services began on the 1st of July 2010.

With the backing of the Federal Government, NSITF initiated the process that led to the inauguration of a National Working Committee on Social Security Policy for Nigeria – headed by elder statesman, former Head of State, Dr. Yakubu Gowon, GCFR. Membership of the Committee was drawn from all spectrum of the Nigerian society including labour, employers, civil society organisations, professionals and the three tiers of government, with key officials from the Presidency, as well as the National Planning Commission, National Pension Commission, Nigeria Governors’ Forum and Association of Local Governments of Nigeria. The Committee has since submitted its Report to the Federal Government for consideration and government’s White Paper on the Report is being awaited.

Employment

Due to the drastic reduction in the activities of NSITF as a result of the Pension Reform Act 2004 that mandated the Fund to only provide social security and stop pension administration, which it was running prior to the Act, it could not afford to retain its workforce and that led to mass retrenchment in 2006. The passage of the ECA into law in 2010, therefore, required the employment of a new team of junior, senior, and management cadre of staff to drive the Employee Compensation Scheme (ECS). The NSITF staff strength of 94 in 2009 had shot up to over 4,000 as at June 2014. The Fund’s Employees’ Compensation Scheme created a huge employment opportunity for the labour market. Over 3,814 graduates of diverse academic discipline/background across Nigeria were directly employed. This unequivocally contributed immensely to the transformation agenda of the President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan Administration in the areas of poverty alleviation, employment generation and wealth creation.

Infrastructure Development

To ensure the operations of NSITF penetrate the nooks and crannies of Nigeria, the Fund saw the dire need to make its presence felt nationwide. To this end, NSITF currently has offices in 36 States of the Federation and the FCT – with 49 Branches and 11 Regional Offices. These offices include 19 new modern structures with ultra-modern facilities and work equipment. The implementation of the NSITF transformation roadmap in the area of infrastructural development is unmatched in the entire history of the Fund.

The Fund also began an extensive transformation of the entire operational system to ensure the Confidentiality, Integrity and Availability (CIA) of all records of the NSITF as it drives the Employees’ Compensation Scheme. This is visible in the massive computerisation of all business processes of the organisation. The Fund is currently making excellent progress in its Oracle Social Services Deployment (OSSD). The OSSD is an International standard Social Services System that automates Policies, Customer Relationship Management, and Financial, Accounting, Investment and Treasury services, and also provides dashboards and reports to ensure that the entire process of the scheme is information technology driven.

The Fund has completed the installation of a rugged and reliable structured cabling to enable Local Area Network (LAN) and direct fibre optics connectivity at the Head Office and all Regional Offices – this is with a view to creating a Wide Area network (WAN) across the Fund’s offices nationwide. It has also completed the installation of Industrial, High capacity Uninterrupted Power supply (UPS), as first level, and then Inverters, as second level, reliable power supply to all ICT infrastructure within all offices of the Funds. This is to ensure that the ICT services are running 24 hours a day and seven days a week with or without power from the Public Power provider.

The Management of NSITF has meanwhile completed the provision of high-end, durable, reliable ICT work tools to staff and offices of the Fund nationwide. These working tools include Desktops, Laptops, Network printers, Photocopiers, Scanners, Shredders (for information security), e.t.c.

The domain nsitf.gov.ng is registered and interactive – The new website is now www.nsitf.gov.ng and a new Online Transaction Processing (OLTP) that enables dynamic and interactive website have been developed and are functional.

NSITF operated employees’ compensation scheme presently covers all employees ofFederal Government treasury funded Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) – as Federal Government paid contributions on their behalf with effect from July 2011 to December 2013. All self-accounting Agencies like FIRS, Judicial Commission etc have also long since keyed into the scheme.

Training and Capacity Building

The Board and Management of the Fund place a high premium on professionalism and competence – complete support for capacity building as the backbone and centerpiece of the survival of any organisation at all times is not lacking at NSITF. Capacity building is the lifeline of the Fund and this means growth, excellence, dynamism and sustainability redefine the future. In a bid to encourage result-oriented efficiency at all levels, NSITF has intermittently embarked on a large-scale training of its staff across all cadre. Over 3,800 staff have attended different knowledge impacting professional trainings and skills acquisition courses within Nigeria on job specification. The remaining 200 staff have already been scheduled for training. Capacity building in NSITF is a continuous process that is mandatory.

Claims and Compensation

The NSITF ECS Claims and Compensation Manuals are already being used and the turn-around time for claims processing has been reduced from one month to two weeks and the sum of N315 million has been paid to 1,393 claimants from August 2011 to July 2011.

Occupational Safety and Health (OSH)

With the support and assistance of the Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan Administration, NSITF has successfully launched a project campaign termed “NSITF-NECA Workplace Intervention Project” as part of its commitment to safety and health at workplaces. The aim is to carry out Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) audit of employers intermittently. Donations of Ambulances and safety equipment have been made to Employers that excelled in keeping OSH standards. Employers who do not measure up to the required OSH standards, but are adjudged as having no means of providing the necessary equipment are also assisted with some safety equipment/gadgets. This is a continuous exercise. 

One area the Fund has exceedingly excelled is increasing its visibility through a high-level aggressive integrated communication spectrum; TV, Radio, Print Media, Internet, Branding, PR, Marketing, and scheme campaign materials such as Flyers, Pamphlets, Leaflets and booklets have been produced and deployed nationwide to promote the ESC and project the corporate image of the Fund.

The Board and Management of the Fund have embarked on series of awareness campaigns – intensifying sensitisation/enlightenment programmes to project the ECS at all levels. Since the inception of the Scheme in 2011, NSITF has undertaken various sensitisation programmes involving stakeholders like the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA) and Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) in the six geo-political zones of Nigeria. Similar interactive fora have been held with members of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) in the six geo-political zones as well. NSITF has also interacted with sectoral trade unions and employers for on-point sensitisation sessions. Comprehensive jingles and commercials – in English, “Pidgin” and local languages have been developed and run on different media stations to educate the public on the ECS. The interactive enlightenment programmes with stakeholders in the private sector, which started in 2011, are currently being expanded to include stakeholders from the public sector – states and local governments, alongside their employees. Also, ECS billboards have been commissioned for erection in strategic locations nationwide.

The Board and the Management of the Fund have successfully transformed NSITF through the establishment of infrastructure and implementation of a 21st century sustainable development action plan for the Employees Compensation Scheme and a comprehensive groundwork for Social Security Services. It is true that the accomplishment of the transformation of NSITF in the past four years has made up for and surpassed the pain, despair, anticipation and disenchantment that cloaked the Fund from 2004 to 2009.

The transformation agenda of the President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan Government in ensuring that public institutions reflect a growth pattern that impacts positively on the country and the lives of the citizenry is reflective on the essence and day-to-day operations of NSITF. This is in consonance with the commitment of national development.

As the Fund keeps growing from strength to strength every year, it is important to note that the kind of effort that can accomplish such grand success can only be possible through purposeful leadership, prudence and accountability. To a large extent, the NSITF success story expresses the magnitude of the intellectual capacity, efforts and strength of the Board and Management team of the Fund. 

The transformation roadmap of NSITF, which is inclusive of the strategic adaptability and capacity building of the Fund from top to bottom, is in full gear nationwide. This means that the feat already accomplished is only an indication that Social Security in Nigeria will be the envy of many countries in the near future.

The Board and Management of the Fund have already institutionalised the groundwork for the development, implementation, expansion and sustainability of NSITF’s transformation framework in the coming years. This is part of the NSITF’s motto “Commitment to Employee Welfare”, and its vision – to be the leading Social Security Institution in Africa, setting the agenda for change, social policy, economic empowerment and poverty alleviation in Nigeria.

Against the backdrop of obvious challenges, the Board and Management of the Fund are looking ahead, consolidating and improving on the gains already accomplished whilst initiating new strategies to expand the scope and framework of delivering better services to Nigerians. And the philosophy to positively change and improve the quality of the lives of Nigerians is the cardinal driver of NSITF’s unflinching spirit. Even though the lack of a social security culture in Nigeria is posing some constraints to the seamless implementation of the Employee Compensation Scheme, the Board and Management of the Fund are determined and committed to impact positively on the economy and upon the lives of the generality of Nigerians – especially on strategic groups, such as the labour force, youth, the vulnerable groups; the old, the disabled, rural dwellers and the poor. This, indeed, is the strength of the Fund and calling; a calling it has vowed to uphold for the stability, growth and development of Nigeria.

Francis Akwu writes from Abuja. Photo shows NSITF Chairman, Dr. (Mrs.) Ngozi Olejeme.

Source News Express

Posted 06/05/2015 1:49:47 PM

 

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