The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), the Central Working Committee (CWC) and National Administrative Council (NAC), following an emergency meeting on Thursday, has directed all their members to lay siege on the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, and attack him wherever they may find him. The Labour also resolves to stage a national protest next week, Monday following an attack on its members.
They also urged President Muhammadu Buhari to sack the minister as his action of deploying thugs to attack labour leaders depict him as being unfit to occupy the position.
Recall that the unionists, under the auspices of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), had stormed the private residence of the minister, located at Justice Muhammed Nasir Street, Asokoro, where they used heavy duty vehicles allegedly containing premium motor spirit (PMS) to block the access gate to the building.
However, things turned sour when thugs, allegedly on the orders of the minister, beat up some of the labour leaders, including some of their members, in a bid to disperse them.
NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, who spoke on behalf of the Central Working Committee (CWC) demanded an unreserved apology from the labour minister.
He said, “Apart from condemnation we demand full investigation of everybody that is involved. CWC demand an unconditional and unqualified reserved apology from Minister of Labour, Chris Ngige, and by extension government, both for the primitive behaviour of the minister and his suspicious silence.
“Clearly this has demonstrated why labour issues have not received the required attention they deserved. The CWC, therefore, resolved to hold Chris Ngige and his family personally responsible for the violence visited on the workers that were injured and we have also directed all our workers particularly at the airports in Nigeria and around the world that where ever he is seen he should also receive the same disgrace particularly in the diaspora where ITUC operates and the 163 countries where ITUC has members.
At all the airports, his name and identity has already been circulated and the same disgrace be extended to him and members of his family.
“The CWC calls for the arrest and prosecution of the thugs immediately and also their sponsors which is well known.
“We demand that Mr. President should also exit people like Ngige, he has not demonstrated enough capacity, he has not demonstrated enough will, and he has not conformed to the tradition that all of us are known for.
“Certainly people like Ngige are not fit to hold public office, because by our laws he is supposed to be the chief conciliator and therefore if chief conciliator should descend so low to be attacking his constituents, his social partners in a situation that is unwarranted and is condemnable. No excuse can be given for that”.
The NLC president insisted that picketing the official residence and office of the minister is lawful because he is a public officer holding public office.
Besides, he said the protest was carried out on a public space as it was done outside the minister’s fenced house.
Wabba insisted that labour will continue to insist that Frank Kokori be inaugurated as chairman of the board of NSITF.
Meanwhile, Chris Ngige on Thursday justified the attack on labour leaders and members by suspected thugs in his official residence on Wednesday.
Ngige, who met with President Muhammadu Buhari behind closed doors at the Presidential Villa on Thursday, likened the action of the labour leaders as an act of hooliganism.
While justifying his action, Ngige said he could not be intimidated by the action of labour, noting that he never appointed Kokori to chair the board of NSITF.
He said being the substantive Minister of Labour and Employment, his powers to appoint key officers in all labour parastatals superseded that of the president and vice president.
Ngige, while reacting to the development, told State House correspondents that he might be compelled to initiate legal actions against the NLC, if they persisted in pressuring him to install Kokori as NSITF boss.
Ngige said: “Well, I just read the dailies today and I saw that story. It is a very fortunate, misleading story because the scenario that emerged yesterday (Wednesday) was that I was woken up at 5a.m by my wife who reported to me that the security men were having problems with some strange fellows at the gate of the house.
“And that some people were also on the walls of my home. That they arrived there by 4:30a.m.
“When the security people accosted them, they discovered that it was the president of the Nigeria Labour Congress himself that came physically with two tankers, one laden with petroleum, the second was half empty. One was put at the gate of my house and the second at the gate of my neighbour’s house.
“When I heard the story, it was very strange. When I looked from upstairs I saw that the tankers were actually blocking the entrance to my house.
“I came down and asked for the chief detail who told me the whole story. And it emerged that they even had a scuffle with the president of the NLC when they were struggling for the key to the tanker.
“So, I went back and made some calls to the Commissioner of Police, FCT, Director SSS, and also the Federal Road Safety to see if they could move the vehicles.
“Picketing does not mean that you go to people’s private residence because you don’t know who occupies there.
“For example, in my home, my wife, my children, and the children of my domestic staff and security personnel were trapped. My neighbour, his wife and children couldn’t go out.
“It is obstruction. It is against the law of the country. Then putting a tanker with petrol is arson, the place can go on fire, the entire street could have been engulfed in fire. I don’t know what to say.
“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.
“That is why we call it social dialogue, because you must continue to talk. If you are government, you continue to talk; if you are labour, you continue to talk with your employer, and if you are employers, you continue engaging them.
“So, I was surprised to read about thugs and people hospitalised, people beaten. I have tried to do some investigations and enquiries and from my preliminary enquiry and the reports I got, it looks like the NLC people disagreed with the people they brought to my house.
“I understand that they were contracted to work till 10a.m which is council time, the aim being to obstruct me from going to council. I left my house at 8 o’clock, a friend picked me up, and I was able to make it to council.
“So, I am very distraught, my family is traumatised, the people in my house are traumatised, my domestic staff, with families, are traumatised, even my neighbour and his wife couldn’t do their business for the day. Those tankers were removed around 6p.m.”
Asked if he was planning to take any action, the minister said: “My neighbour said he is going to take legal action. I will also take legal action. Illegal actions are actionable; nobody is above the law.
“Their grouse is the inauguration of the NSITF board. We had fixed the date for April 18 and they invaded the place with thugs and disrupted the function.
“We had postponed the function and said we were going to fix another date for inauguration, but since then, they have been maligning my character and integrity, because I am the labour minister.
“They forget that, according to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) convention, I am what they refer to as the competent authority.
“Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, Mr. Secretary to the Government of the Federation will not come and do labour matters. But, it is an obtuse thing we have here.”
Asked if Kokori was not neutral person, Ngige responded: “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.”