Tensions between Nigeria’s Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige and the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has escalated recently following the picketing action against the Minister which he has described as unlawful and constituting a threat to himself and his family. The NLC in the same vein accused the Minister of unleashing thugs against its members who embarked on a peaceful protest.
Backstory: The Minister appointed Austin Enejamo-Isire, a Chartered Accountant, as the board chairman of the National Social Insurance Trust Fund, a decision which pitted him against the labour unions. The NLC is demanding that the Minister inaugurates Frank Kokori, a labour leader as the chairman of the board and it was on this basis that it led a protest to the Minister’s Asokoro residence over his failure to inaugurate the NSITF board with their candidate as the chairman.
Ngige said the picketing of his Asokoro residence by the protesting labor members was unlawful and dangerous.
- “….putting a tanker with petrol is arson, the place can be caught on fire, the entire street could have engulf on fire. I don’t know what to say.”
- “In my own home, my wife, some of my children, the children of my staff members, my cooks, and my stewards were all trapped. My neighbour also couldn’t go to work. That is obstruction. It is against the law of the land.”
- “That is not Trade Unionism, it is hooliganism. In Trade Unionism, you dialogue.”
NLC leader, Ayuba Wabba offers a different account: “As minister of labour, he knows that there is a clear provision of the law on picketing, lockouts and even strike action and therefore for him to have instead of addressing the issues, descended so low to the extent of using thugs to attack workers who were on a peaceful conduct of the protest, is something that is less than desirable and is anti-workers.”
The presidency wades in, defending Ngige’s actions: “All actions taken by the Honourable Minister of Labour and Employment towards the resuscitation and repositioning of this ailing agency, including the Administrative Panel of Inquiry into the affairs of NSITF and the suspension of the inauguration of the board in 2018 were part of the special work plan approved for the Honourable Minister by Mr. President.”
The presidency said it had appointed Frank Kokori on the recommendation of Ngige as the board chair of the Michael Imoudu National Institute for Labour Studies (MINILS).
It is far from over: The Labour Congress has declared that a national protest will hold in Abuja today, Monday, May 13th to express displeasure over the alleged use of thugs on its members.