The relationship between the Nigerian work force and the Minister for labour and productivity has continued to remain frosty.
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has urged workers in the nation’s airports and those in the 163 countries that are members of the International Trade Union Confederation to subject the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, to ridicule.
The congress said it called for the action because Mr Ngige invited thugs against workers during a “lawful protest” to his house.
Rising from its Central Working Committee meeting on Thursday evening, the Congress demanded an “unreserved apology from the minister, for his action.
Speaking with journalists after the meeting, the national president of NLC, Ayuba Wabba, said the actions of the minister was a clear indication that he was not fit to occupy public office.
”He is not fit to be a minister. He has no reason to be called minister of labour. He is a lord of his own and therefore instead of protecting us, he is against us.
Therefore we have nothing to do with him under the circumstance.”
“NLC has sent messages to all workers in the 163 countries who are members of the ITUC to embarrass the minister and members of his family anywhere they are seen, especially at airports where workers operates,” he said.
Mr Wabba said the minister has no right to change the appointment made by the president on the excuse that he never recommended Frank Kokori to head the NSITF board.
“The real reason he is opposed to Chief Kokori was because the veteran labour leader cannot be compromised. Since the minister has been talking about the issue of corruption in the NSITF, the government should put in place a judicial commission of enquiry to investigate the agency so as to unravel who the actual corrupt persons are,” he said.
According to Mr Wabba, “who are the actual corrupt people in NSITF? Is it the board that has not been inaugurated or it is the minister?”
Speaking on the criticism that followed the decision of the congress to picket the minister’s residence, Mr Wabba said the minister is a public officer, holding a public office. Until he leaves office, even his house is a public place.
“In any case, he has abandoned his office and has been operating from his house. The house has been his second office for some time now and he has been avoiding any place where he will come in contact with us.” Mr Wabba said the money in NSITF belongs to workers because it is a contribution of employers to take care of the social needs of their workers.
“That is the only reason why Labour and NECA have two members each, on the Board. Even the ministry of labour has only one member. So, we are demanding that the Board, headed by Kokori, be inaugurated and all the thugs who attacked us in the full glare of security agents be investigated and prosecuted,” he said.
The NLC president said the national protest will be restricted to Abuja for now and asked all affiliates and state councils to begin to mobilise their members ahead of the protest.
I will sue NLC – Ngige
Reacting to the incident at his residence, Mr Ngige said he and his unnamed neighbour are planning to institute legal action against the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC).
He said this while fielding questions from state house correspondents on Thursday in Abuja.
According to Mr Ngige, picketing does not mean that you go to people’s private residences because you don’t know who occupies there.
“That is not trade unionism. That is hooliganism. I have been preaching that you cannot exchange hooliganism for trade unionism. Trade unionism means you dialogue, you discuss, you talk,” he said.
“So, I was surprised to read about thugs and people hospitalised, people beaten. I have tried to do some investigations and enquiries,” he said.
Mr Ngige said the union’s grouse is the inauguration of the NSITF board.
He said according to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) convention, the labour minister is the competent authority. “Mr President, Mr Vice President or Mr Secretary to the Government of the Federation will not come and do Labour matters.”
He said the ‘labour people’, led by Mr Wabba, feel that they are the secondary arm of government.
“Because he answers president of NLC, so, he equates himself with the president of Nigeria.
“The Act setting up the NSITF gave Labour two nominees and private sector, under NECA, two nominees. Labour appropriated the two for NLC and made a nomination and government has also made a nomination,” he said.
He said the ministry has proposed and the government has approved a fit and neutral person, not a government officer, not a Labour man and not a private sector man.
“That is what obtains in tripartism and we exhibited it for you all to see under the national minimum wage tripartite committee.
He said the government will go ahead to inaugurate the board. ”We will not have any further distractions on this and we are consulting to fix a date for the inauguration, immediately”.
When asked if Mr Kokori was not a neutral person, Mr Ngige said, “I did not recommend him. I am the minister permitted by law to do that recommendation and I am telling you unequivocally that I did not recommend him, simple.”
PREMIUM TIMES reported how thugs loyal to Mr Ngige, on Wednesday morning attacked a PREMIUM TIMES’ journalist, Ayodeji Adegboyega, and some officials of the NLC.
The incident occurred during a protest by NLC members over the delay in the inauguration of the board of an agency, the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF).
There has been a tussle between the NLC and the Labour minister over the inauguration of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) board which was constituted by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo in October 2017, in his capacity as Acting President.
Since 2017, Mr Ngige has refused to inaugurate the 11-member board.
When he decided to last month, he omitted Mr Kokori from those to be nominated. That action infuriated the NLC who protested to the venue.
The inauguration did not eventually hold.
Mr Ngige later announced he had nominated someone different from Mr Kokori as chairman of the board of the NSITF.