The Industrial Training Fund has cleared the air on allegations of high-handedness and corruption levelled against the management, saying they are unfounded, malicious and not in the interest of the Nigerian economy.
According to a statement, signed by the Deputy Director, Public Affairs of the Fund, the allegations are calculated strategies by enemies of accountability to disrupt the giant strides being made by the Fund under the current administration for their selfish gains.
The Director-General, ITF, Dr. Juliet Chukkas-Onaeko, while calling on the Federal Government to urgemtly address hooliganism in unionism, said labour unions should continue to tread the path of integrity for which past labour leaders were known.
The peddlers of the malicious information, the statement said, had tried every means to drag the image of the current ITF leadership in the mud without success, which is the reason they have again resorted to instigating a protest.
“A situation where our labour unions allow themselves to be used by a few people, who want power by all means, to disrupt laudable policies that would eventually be in their long-term interest, and in the interest of the economy, is not acceptable. In ITF, it cannot be business as usual again, in the interest of efficient and effective skills development. This exactly is what a few people are trying to fight for reasons best known to them,” the statement added, noting, however, that welfare under the current administration had been at its best, so far.
The ITF, however, gave explanations to all the allegations of the union, pointing out the fallacy in each and drawing the attention of the public to the fact that the ITF had actually, under the current administration, taking the activities of the Fund to an enviable height while striving hard to cut costs.
“We wish to refute the allegation of corruption in its entirety. The present DG has been commended severally for her financial prudence and her objectivity in tackling issues. On several occasions, she had directed for the renegotiation of certain outrageous contracts that were awarded in the past, thereby achieving huge savings for the fund,” the statement said.
On non-remittance of all deductions from salaries from June to date, the statement explained that there had been a backlog due to the implementation of the Treasury Single Account, but that they were now being processed for payment.
“At the moment, virtually all outstanding payments are either being processed or paid. As a matter of fact, most of the deductions have been remitted as appropriate except for deductions for the months of September and October, 2015 which were affected by TSA.
It also described the allegations of non-payment of Training Contributors’ Reimbursement claims as baseless and mischievous, saying, “The percentage of Reimbursement Claims paid as at October, 2015 is over 82 per cent as against the less than five per cent purported by the unions.
“In November alone, a total of 175 Company Claim files have been processed for payment in the sum of N1,940,308,119.53, bringing the total amount paid from 2014 to date to N10,441,807,116.52 as shown below. This is the highest ever reimbursed in the history of ITF reimbursement payment and the DG must be commended for this.”
The statement also cleared the air on the issues surrounding the renovation of the ITF Headquarters Complex, noting that “the issue of renovation of the Headquarters Office Complex started about four years ago. An initial contract sum of N420m was pruned down to N248,922,900.00 by the current management which has saved a substantial sum of N171,077,100.00.”
Experts have, however, described the allegation of a transfer of N1.2bn to the Nigerian Employers Consultative Association as a display of ignorance as regards the activities of the ITF, saying that the transfers are annual payments, usually approved by the National Assembly.
“Payment of the sum of N1.2bn to the Nigerian Employers’ Consultative Association has been ongoing. It was only inherited by the present management. The amount is an annual payment, which is usually approved by the National Assembly. The terms and conditions of this collaboration are contained in a Memorandum of Understanding. Contrary to the claims of the union, 2015 is the only year where no increase was made to the amount appropriated yearly for ITF/NECA,” the statement added.
On the insinuation that the DG approved the purchase of her family land in Umunede for the construction of Skills Training Centres, the statement said, “The proposed training Centre referenced above, was duly approved by the last Governing Council and budgeted for to be sited in Delta State. The Governing Council particularly noted that no Skills Training Centre had been built in the South-East and South-South zones, hence their approval of a Skills Training Centre in each of the zones.
“Contrary to the fallacious and unpalatable allegation of the unions, the Umunede community donated 2.7 hectares of land free of charge to the Industrial Training Fund to build a Skills Training Centre. The Fund requested for 5 hectares. For additional 2.3 hectares required by the Fund, compensation is to be made by the Fund to the Community. The Director-General promised to contact the State Government to graciously bear the cost on behalf of the Industrial Training Fund.”
Industry watchers have, however, called on the Federal Government to urgently wade into activities of labour unions to ensure that they are properly guided in the interest of the Nigerian economy.