The House of Representatives Chairman on the Committee on Finance, James Abiodun Faleke, on Thursday continued his warfare with the Minster of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, breaking open the pandora box of budget padding on the minister. The Thursday plenary of the House was an ample opportunity for the lawmaker representing Ikeja Federal Constituency, Lagos State, in the National Assembly to prove to the minster that he is no small boy as adduced on Wednesday before the investigative committee.
Faleke addressing the House, first took on the minister on breach of procedures, before delving into financial malfeasance.
National Daily monitoring the proceedings from Lagos observed that the crisis ravaging the All Progressives Congress (APC) has permeated the government controlled by the party. More so, the latent re-alignments within the party towards 2023 is deepening the lingering crisis which is beginning to infiltrate the government.
The lawmaker, Faleke acquainted the House that the drastic decision unilaterally taken by the Hon. Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, is subverting the activities of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF). He added that his perturbation is that the Minister of Labour and Employment who is supposed to mediate between employees am employers is single-handedly taking decisions without recourse to procedures. Faleke stated that the government of President Muhammadu Buhari was elected because of his pedigree, his promises, and because the people believe he will deliver. “Unfortunately, Mr. President on his own cannot directly deliver the goodies; he has to appoint some Ministers or some advisers,” Faleke noted. He decried: “We have seen in recent times how these ministers have abused their offices. In this particular case, the question that will come to our mind is why the Minister of Labour and Employment will carry out this draconian decision without following due process.”
Faleke advocated that there is a need for the House to look into appointment of Board chairman. He pointed out that the constitution says the president should appoint board members, but in practice, the ministers nominate board chairmen. He protested that if they now have control of board chairmen many things will go wrong. He said that the claim will be that the president, the federal government has approved. “The issue was this, the agency has a board, if there is disciplinary action required, the resolution of the board must go to the minster, from the minister to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) before a decision is taken.
“Even when the resolution of the board cuts, the minister has no power to issue such letter. It is only the SGF that has the power, having taken instructions form the president,” Faleke declared.
The lawmaker further declared that “the Minster of Labour and Employment has abused his office,” saying: “and if I were the President, I will get him removed immediately based on facts.”
Faleke said that the NSITF submitted the budget of the agency to the minster, alleging that “He single-handedly altered all the budget, altered the figures. “And when the men and women of that agency protested, he threatened to remove them.”
The also alleged that the minister inserted N2 billion commissioned project; “he inserted N2 billion for commission or collection, something that ahs never happened in that agency. In other words, he needed the management and the executive committee to be out of office so that he can implement that budget. He removed all the people who are against that decision and left it to the people who never knew about the argument between them,” Faleke declared.
Faleke further said that there are ministers, alleging: “especially, this particular minister, he single-handedly nominated the contractors that bought all the vehicles worth N305 million in 2019 budget. “And the executive members said, this 2020 budget, they will not allow that to happen again. The moment the 2020 budget was approved he felt he will not have control of those things he inserted if these people remain there and the only way to do it is to send them away. That’s the crux of the matter.”
Faleke noted that while the federal lawmakers are entitled to Camry cars as official car, a minster of the Federal Republic will be provided with convoy of vehicles by the ministry. He alleged: “but that is not enough for Ngige; he went ahead to compel NSITF to buy him SUV Toyota Land Cruiser and a Hilux in 2019. This same minister has inserted four SUVs in 2020 budget which the men and women he wants to send away have refused, saying we will not implement this budget. These are the things; these are the issues.”
Faleke further alleged: “It will also interest you to know that his wife works in the civil service, he took advantage that his wife works with the head of service and got approval signed by his wife to the Ministry of Labour and Employment to appoint an insurance broker for insurance worth N100 million every year. This approval was signed by his wife on the 6th of May. And he wrote approval immediately to NSITF to accept that program on the 10th of May.”