Business activities were on Wednesday disrupted at the headquarters of the National Economic Reconstruction Fund by workers accusing the agency of mismanagement and embezzlement of funds running into about N700m.
The workers are also protesting the failure of successive governments to make a pronouncement over the status of the organisation almost 16 years after President Obasanjo muted the idea of merger of Development Finance Institutions comprising NERFUND, and Bank of Industry and others.
They chanted protest songs and carried placards with several inscriptions such as “We want to know our stand before NERFUND becomes No-fund”; “End staff victimisation, we too need change”; “Executive management just go, tenure expired since 2014. Please go.”
They also claimed that although NERFUND did not make the merger, it had been left dormant since 2000 while some people in the management “feast on its meager resources”.
Addressing journalists during the protest, one of the worker who gave his name as Joseph Ngati said that the workers were also protesting the absence of a substantive Executive Management as the status of the current one is negatively affecting loan recovery efforts.
He said, “The staff members are protesting the failure of government to appoint a substantive Chief Executive to oversee affairs of the organisation after the expiration of the one-year term granted the present Executive Management that was seconded from the Nigerian Deposit Insurance Corporation and Central Bank of Nigeria in October 2013.
“This comprised of Muhammad Kollere, who was seconded from NDIC as acting Managing Director and Mr. Elenwor Ihua from the CBN as acting Executive Director, Operations.
“These two have been left to operate illegally without valid appointment, while the careers of members of staff suffered.”
Another worker, who gave his name as Odunsi Olubunmi told our correspondent that the lack of experience of the current management team in the area of Development Financing had jeopardised loan recovery efforts.
Olubunmi said, “The acting Executive Management has prevented staff members from embarking on the recovery of loans of some projects simply because such projects were either sponsored or guaranteed by their political sponsors.
“NERFUND has no operational vehicle to support loan recovery drive. The only two available vehicles have been hijacked by the MD and ED for their personnel use instead of making them available for use for our operations.”
But reacting to these allegations, Ihua told journalists that the claims by the workers were untrue.
He said, “Whatever we can address, we are going to address and the ones we can’t address, we are going to let our principals know.
“The allegations of diversion of N700m is not true. We know that when there are protest like this, people tend to come up with so many allegations. I don’t want to undermine what they have said because they are hardworking staff of NERFUND.
“However, when there are issues like this, there is need for dialogue.”
He said contrary to claims that the management team of the agency enjoyed huge allowances, whatever allowances currently be collected by them are approved by the Ministry of Finance.