Many employers of labour presently are flouting the rules guiding the Employees Compensation Scheme (ECS), which became operational in 2010.
Managing Director of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF), Mr. Adebayo Somefun recently at a forum in Lagos explained that the law enabling the scheme stipulates that every organisation that employs one worker is under statutory obligation to register for the ECS; these include domestic staff.
According to him, the Act also emphasises that failure to do so amounts to a breach of the law.
He equally speaks further on the operation of the scheme, its importance and efforts made so far in compliance.
The journey so far
It is pertinent to mention that this week happens to mark the second year that the current Executive Management assumed office. The journey so far has not been easy, but we know that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a step in the right direction. We thank God for how far he has brought us.
Accordingly, it would not be out of place to highlight some of the achievements of the current executive and staff of the Fund.
Permit me to start by stating that the core mandate of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) is basically to promote social security services to the Nigerian worker. Our current activities are anchored on the Employees’ Compensation Scheme (ECS) as enshrined in the Employees’ Compensation Act (2010).
The ECS provides social security for employees who sustain injuries in the course of employment, or their dependants in case of death; it further encourages occupational safety and health standards in the workplace.
The contingencies covered by this unique scheme, include compensation for injuries, mental stress, occupational diseases, hearing impairment, permanent or temporary disability, and even vocational rehabilitation, as well as covering for benefits of deceased employees whose families’ fortunes are upheld even after the passing away of their bread winners. All these have served as massive incentives for enhanced productivity and economic development, as Nigerian workers are assured of a guaranteed livelihood.
When the present Executive Management Committee assumed office two years ago—May 2017—we were guided by the collective vision of all the members which was in line with the vision and the mission of the NSITF. The Fund has as its vision the desire to become, the “Leading Social Security institution in Africa, setting the agenda for change, social policy, economic empowerment and poverty alleviation in Nigeria.” It has as its mission, “To be proactive in providing social security protection and safety nets for all Nigerians against deprivations and income insecurity in accordance with national and international laws, conventions and world best practices.”
On assumption of office, the Executive Management Committee came up with a 4-point agenda aimed at accelerating the transformation of the organization into delivering the expected change in the social security landscape to Nigerians. The agenda included amongst other things, consolidating upon the achievements of previous administrations and improving on them, raising the contribution collection to effectively meet its statutory responsibilities; re-branding NSITF through aggressive publicity to improve acceptance and patronage by the various stakeholders; as well as motivating the staff through improved staff welfare.
The first step we took was to de-bureaucratise the operations of the Fund with a swift intervention in its processes. Consequently:
Registration of employers in the scheme is now completed within one day; Yearly Compliance Certificate is issued within 7 days of request; however, certificates would soon be printed online; All claims and compensations, including death benefits, are paid within 14 working days upon application.
In order to sustain the momentum stated above, the Fund embarked on the digitalisation of all processes in a manner that registration can be carried out online from the comfort of the employers’ offices through the Electronic Compliance, Collection, Claims and Compensation (EC4) platform in line with global best practices.
Next, the Executive Management Committee took steps to ensure staff discipline and orderliness by improving staff morale, productivity and loyalty. To achieve this, Management: Ensured that staff that had not been promoted for over 6 years were promoted, Set up the Proper Placement Committee to ensure that deserving staff are properly placed where they rightly belong in the hierarchy of the organization, Paid all outstanding allowances of staff which had been pending before the advent of the administration, thereby improving, staff morale vis-à-vis welfare, Institutedd the maiden edition of the Managing Director’s Excellence Award for staff and employers.
Also in a bid to boost operations of the Fund, we set out to create conducive work environment through provision of facilities such as: furniture, desk top computers, electric power generators, laptops, photocopiers, air conditioners, and safety gears, amongst others.
Collaboration with social partners
The Fund, in a resolute commitment to maintain a harmonious working relationship with its partners, has continued to collaborate with the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA) and the Ministry of Labour and Employment in the NSITF-NECA Safe Workplace Intervention Project (SWIP).
In this project, auditors carry out Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) audit of factories and work environments. Subsequently, safety equipment like ambulances, safety helmets and jackets, fire extinguishers amongst others, are presented as incentive to employers with the highest standards of safety in Workplace in the country. It is pertinent I mention here that at last year’s NSITF-NECA SWIP Audit presentation, dependants of deceased employees as widows, children, beneficiaries of those rehabilitated, etc came to attest to how NSITF had assisted and bettered their lot thereby deeply touching all that were at the ceremony and practically confirming the benefits why the Fund was established.
In addition, the Fund embarked on the digitalization of registration and payment records of all existing contributors to the Fund in line with global best practices. This has helped us track contribution history, identify defaulters and craft responsive strategies to boost collection nationwide.
Between 2015 and 2019, the Fund employed 1,051 members of staff, thereby fulfilling the promise of the present administration to create jobs for Nigerian youths and give opportunities for growth. As a corollary, more than 200 training programmes were conducted and more than 5,000 members of staff benefited from these training programmes within two years of this current administration.
In order to boost statutory compliance by employers of labour and to shore up contributions so that a meaningful Employees’ Compensation Scheme can be provided to Nigerian workers, the present management sought the assistance of the House of Representatives. Consequently, the House moved a motion to enforce compliance to the ECS and two public hearings have been held on the motion. As part of the response to this, a total number of 87,179 employers have been registered under the ECS to affirm their compliance with the ECA 2010. This number covers more than 6.7 million employees. The increase in registration has thus far, accounted for a 35% increase Contribution Collection.
Transparency and accountability
Pro-active steps have been taken to promote transparency and accountability in the Fund by putting in place a structure for corporate governance. As a departure from the past, we are presently implementing a procurement policy and solidifying our partnership with the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP). This means that every procurement process must now be advertised, formal bidding conducted before the award of job is made to the most competent bidder. The introduction and diligent observance of this due process in procurement activities is in line with the Federal Government’s anti- corruption crusade.
Employees’ compensation is our primary function and we have not failed in this regard. In the last two years since this management team took over, 24,880 Claims and Compensation have been paid to beneficiaries under different contingencies. This is a record in the history of the Fund.
Within two years of our administration, NSITF has rehabilitated 42 persons, making the total of 54 since implementation of the scheme in 2011. This process entails providing prosthetic limbs for employees who lost a limb in accidents while at work and training such employees on the usage of the artificial limbs. We have also provided hearing aids to some victims. Other beneficiaries in the last two years include: 347 dependents on monthly payroll as at February 2019; 448 disability beneficiaries on monthly payroll as at February 2019; 20 persons above the age of 55 years have been paid lump sums on a one-off basis.
How employers can key into the scheme
To access these benefits, the employer – government or private/individual – is required to pay only one percent (1%) of total payroll of the employees to the NSITF, and this is at no cost to the employee! Once that is done, it becomes the duty of NSITF to carry the burden which otherwise would have gone to the employer where there is a workplace injury, death or disability.
The beauty of the scheme is that it is a “no-fault” scheme, and covers all categories of workers in every sector of employment. As the law enabling the scheme stipulates, every organisation that employs even one worker is under statutory obligation to register for the ECS; these include domestic staff. It also emphasises that failure to do so amounts to a breach of the law.
According to S.73 of the ECA; an employee means “a person employed by an employer under oral or written contract of employment whether on a continuous, part-time, temporary, apprenticeship or casual basis and includes a domestic servant who is not a member of the family of the employer including any person employed in the Federal, State and Local Governments, and any of the government agencies and in the formal and informal sectors of the economy”.
While I reiterate that every Nigerian worker deserves the best and must be made to have a sense of value, let me state that when a worker knows that his future is secured in the case of injury while performing his functions, he/she has a deeper sense of commitment to the employer.
To make the process of keying into the scheme easier, the Fund has introduced a digital platform that is called Electronic Contribution Collection, Compliance and Compensation (EC4), to galvanize enforcement compliance, claims and compensation activities as well as the overall operations of the Fund. This enables employers to easily register, pay contributions, access their ECS status and make claims, all online and in real time from the comfort of their offices/homes.
The Executive Management Committee has continued to make responsible investment to protect public funds placed in its trust. We have established and maintained low risk investment portfolios in real estate. In the past, this had given birth to estates in Asokoro, Katampe Extension, Kagini, Gaduwa and Durumi within Abuja.
The present Management, through intensive efforts, recovered four properties whose proceeds were hitherto diverted to personal gains by consultants to the Fund. After a long mediation the Fund has recovered the buildings at: No.112, Broad Street, Marina, Lagos; No. 9 Causeway, Ijora-Apapa, Lagos; Era Village, Oto-Awori off Badagry Road, Ijanikin, Lagos; NSITF Building, opposite Federal High Court, Igbatoro, Akure, Ondo State.
At the NSITF, we do not underrate the fact that the mass media is a reliable instrument for management of public perception, publicity and creation of positive image for any organisation. That is why we give the media priority in our scheme of events. We are conscious of the fact that our activities are open to public scrutiny. It is in the realisation of this that the Fund has complied with the directive of the Attorney General of the Federation to MDAs on the implementation of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act 2011. In February 2019, NSITF launched the FOI Portal on its website and has put information about the Fund in the public space. Furthermore, it is a reminder and plea for the media to equally see this collaboration as a social responsibility of the media, not just for helping the Fund but as service to mankind.
With its track record of successes in managing social security schemes since its establishment, the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund is poised to undertake its mandate with impeccable responsibility. It is on this premise that we, not only celebrate the success story of the Employees’ Compensation Scheme (ECS), but also urge and spur all employers to step forward and ensure the welfare of their employees by enrolling into the Scheme and paying the mandatory 1% ECS Contribution.
We might not yet be there, but certainly, we are not where we used to be. We are focused. We are determined. We are resolute. We are ready to soar higher. The vision and the mission of the Fund remains our propelling force.