49 NERFUND officials throw in the towel

Posted by Abdulwahab Isa Abuja | 1 November 2017 | 1,184 times

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The 49 remaining personnel of the comatose National Economic Reconstruction Fund (NERFUND) have turned in their resignation letters to the Federal Government in what some of the affected officials described as guided threat by the Ministry of Finance.

A cross section of NERFUND staff, who confirmed the latest development to New Telegraph last night, explained that the remaining staff of the organisation – 49 in all – had no choice but to toe the line of the Federal Ministry of Finance.

“Our union leaders met with Federal Ministry of Finance on October 17. The meeting was chaired by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Finance, Dr. Mahmoud Isa-Dutse, who doubles as board Chairman of NERFUND. The meeting was also attended by our Sole Administrator/CEO, Dr. Ezekiel Oseni. The permanent secretary told our leaders that it would be in the best interest of staff to resign and turn in their resignation letters and be given acceptance letter by the government instead of being given letter of dismissal.

“The permanent secretary said voluntary letter of resignation put staff in a better position to earn severance package which they risk losing if government disengages them. By October 19, we started filing our voluntary retirement letters to take effect from October 31st,” said one of the senior staff of the Fund.

Lamenting their ordeal, a junior cadre employee said that the ministry backtracked on the initial mutual agreement it had with staff.

“The same permanent secretary told us last year that government will transfer the staff to other agencies in the event that the option of closing down NERFUND is taken by government. We are just 49 staff because they have sacked 300 staff in the last two years,” he said.

Efforts to get response from the ministry were futile. The permanent secretary, Isa-Dutse, neither picked his call nor responded to SMS sent to his mobile line.

The Special Assistant on Media to the Minister, Oluyinka Akintunde, did not respond either.

NERFUND is bogged down with huge Non-Performing Loans (NPLs) put at over N17.5 billion; a figure some staff conversant with loan portfolio of the Fund said was exaggerated.

“They keep bandying this figure of N17.5 billion without subtracting the recoveries we made. Does it mean that we didn’t recover some debt? Of course, we did! Let me tell you, I’m an insider and a member of the loan recovery team. Our capital is N7 billion; we recovered N2.6 billion, leaving an outstanding capital in the region of N4.48 billion. There is accrued interest also in the region of N4 billion. There were legacy projects carried over years back during the tenures of former military President Ibrahim Babangida and Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha. All these projects are categorised as non-performing loans and they lumped everything together and come to the conclusion of N17.5 billion,” a NERFUND official, who pleaded for identity protection, told New Telegraph on phone.

The Federal Government, earlier in September, began plans to shut down NERFUND over non-performance and non-performing loans of over N17.5 billion.

About 1,143 projects in the small and medium enterprises sector were reportedly financed with the NERFUND loans between 2010 and 2013. (New telegraph)

Source: News Express

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