Reducing workplace accidents, others through NSITF reforms

The Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund is on a drive to reducing accidents among other workplace challenges as JOHN MOSES reports.

Workplace accidents in Nigeria are a significant concern due to a combination of factors, including inadequate safety regulations, poor enforcement of existing laws, lack of training and insufficient safety equipment. 

The Employees Compensation Act of 2010 (ECA, 2010) empowered the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) to comprehensively provide compensation and rehabilitation to employees and their registered beneficiaries in case of workplace injuries, disabilities, occupational diseases and fatalities.

NSITF, which is supervised by the Ministry of Labour and Employment, has the responsibility of maintaining a solvent compensation fund for both employees and employers, while instituting efficient procedures for enforcing occupational safety and health standards to prevent workplace accidents.

According to the provisions of ECA 2010, all employers of labour in the public and private sector are expected to remit 1% of their total monthly payroll to the coffers of Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund in respect of Employees’ Compensation Scheme (ECS).

Explanation by NSITF boss

The managing director and chief executive of NSITF, Barr Maureen Allagoa speaking in an occasion recently said, “It is fundamental to note that the first step in driving the processes of the Employees’ Compensation Scheme (ECS) is accident prevention.  

She said, “The NSITF is primarily charged to ensure that Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) awareness programmes are taken to workplaces in order to reduce work-related accidents. 

“In line with this, the Health Safety and Environment Department (HSE) of NSITF is structured as the fulcrum for the execution of different work-health exercises.

“Some of these exercises include occupational health and safety (OSH) awareness, OSH audit where work environment is inspected to ensure they are safe and work-friendly. 

“There is also accident prevention and reporting awareness as well as fire drill exercise, besides wellness management and rehabilitative retooling where rehabilitated injured workers are taken through new skills to help them earn salaries. 

“Other health activities under OSH include safety campaigns and board enquiry inspection where the board intervenes in the dispensation of benefits to the injured beyond the stipulated time for reporting the case.”

Speaking further, the NSITF boss noted that the fund had in the last one year, conducted a total of 5,592 Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) exercises in different workplaces across the country. 

Some of the major workplaces, according to the MD where the exercises were conducted include Schlumberger, Port Harcourt; Julius Berger Construction Company, Abuja; Dangote Cement Bagging and Packaging, Lokoja; Sundry Food, Rivers State; Shellberg Manufacturing, Lagos; Federal Palace Hotel, Victoria Island Lagos, among others including hundreds of other informal sector small scale companies. 

She said, “The result of successful OSH exercises is the reduction in workplace accidents which trigger a reduction in the fund’s budget for claims and compensations. In other words, intense OSH exercise is inversely proportional to the volume of claims and compensations; hence, when persons who are not familiar with NSITF make reference to the amount budgeted for claims and compensations, it is good for them to also reckon with the OSH activities.

“An efficiently managed NSITF is not the function of a high volume of yearly claims and compensations dispensed. It is about the number of accidents and occupational diseases nipped in the bud. Claims and compensations actually make up the inadequacies of Occupational Safety and Health or rather takes the barton from where the OHS stops, with varying range of cash and non-cash benefits which include compensation for injuries occurring in the normal workplace, mental stress, occupational disease,  hearing impairment, permanent and partial disability, loss of productivity, injuries occurring outside the normal workplace but in the course of work. 

“In fatal cases (death), as much as 90% of the total remuneration of the deceased employee is paid to the dependant(s) of the deceased (widow/widower/children etc.), until the occurrence of certain events specified by the act.

“The non-cash benefits include the provision of artificial appliances, including artificial limbs, vocational rehabilitation and counselling services to injured employees with a view to bringing the employee back to work.”

The NSITF boss further said since the inception of the Employees’ Compensation Act (ECA,2010) in July 2011, a lot has been achieved. 

According to her, while over 145,000 employers and 7.4 million employees have been enrolled, NSITF has equally disbursed claims and compensations to over 103,000 beneficiaries, including specialised medical interventions like artificial limb provision and overseas medical treatments, and payment to dependants of some of the bereaved under the care of the fund.

This, she said, would last till the last child attains 21 years or graduates from higher institution of learning.

Specifically, she said that between March 2023 and May 2024, a total of 20,531 workers benefited from different compensation packages and some of them and their organisations inclusive.

Corporate affairs manager too

Speaking on the reforms in the organisation, the general manager corporate affairs of the fund, Nwachukwu Godson, said NSITF is focusing in its efforts to deliver on the 8 points agenda of President Bola Tinubu’s administration.

According to him, “Beyond this, the current management of NSITF has remained focused in delivering the 8-point agenda of the administration in the social security sector through the reform of the agency in a manner that seamlessly delivers its mandate. 

“Starting with staff welfare, the management emplaced a corruption-free computer-based promotion examinations in 2022 and promoted 1,032 staff to different cadres and 129 to the management level. 

“In 2023, the exercise turned more seamless with a total of 1,671 staff promoted while other pending promotion issues especially for the management level are awaiting ministerial directive. It also transited the staff performance evaluation from APER to a more pragmatic Performance Management System.   

“While reforming the promotion examinations, the management also reviewed the Staff Conditions of Service which has been in use for 29 years now as well as implemented a new integrated salary structure as approved by the National Salaries Incomes and Wages Commission while promptly paying the N35,000 minimum wage award. 

“A new health management plan was also put in place to make way for an increased and quality medical care for staff members while clearing the backlog of gratuity. To expand the frontiers of the fund and bring its numerous benefits to the doorstep of all workers, the current management created four new branch-in branch as well as service centres and strategically moved in efforts into the informal sector where the majority of the Nigerian workers daily eke out their living.  

“As part of the strategic restructuring, the management introduced a three-tier online monthly Management Performance Review (MPR), half year regional MPR and the yearly central MPF. The result of this dynamic peer review has filled in gaps, resulting in higher productivity. 

“For the first time in the history of the fund, the yearly target was over-shot. The fund’s legal department was also re-organised and imbued to be able to tackle legal challenges, winning many cases against recalcitrant employers, recovering debts and remarkably reduced the amount hitherto spent on legal services. To make the issuance of the compliant certificate easier for employers, the management also divested 90% of the processes and handed them to the branches and regions who are mostly in direct interface with employers. “The fund also ensured close partnership with its largest contributor, NECA, to beat down under-cutting by employers who base contributions on basic, housing and transport instead of total emoluments.

“As the leading social security institution in Africa with over 60 years’ experience in the social security sector, the NSITF is deploying this factor in key priority areas of the 8-point agenda especially No. 6 that dwells on social investments to improve the lives of Nigerians and enhance human and capital development. The 57 branches and 12 regional offices of NSITF and over 5,000 staff strength of diverse academic backgrounds has a strong institutional memory and database for active deployment in data generation, storage and sharing same with relevant agencies. 

“The fund has besides made strategic drive into the informal sector of the economy with a view to providing social security services for the employees through close collaboration with Small & Medium Enterprises (SMEs) using their various associations and bodies. This strategy extends even to associations and umbrella bodies of small and medium scale enterprises in the agricultural sector with a view to improving productivity and boosting food production which will invariably enhance food security. This is number 3 of the 8-point agenda which relates to agriculture and food security,” he concluded.