Furore over workers delegates to Confab

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All is not well within the Nigeria Labour Congress over the list of delegates to the national conference. Affiliate unions of the NLC took the leadership to task on the manner the list of delegates was drawn up without input from unions that make up the Congress. In this edition of Labour Vanguard, the list is analysed and the comments of other stakeholders are part of this report.

By Funmi Komolafe

The National Conference has been inaugurated and organized labour  is represented but the furore over who should represent organized labour is on. Are workers properly represented? This is an issue that  remains controversial.

The Nigeria Labour Congress, the oldest labour centre is represented by the following :NLC president, Abdulwaheed Ibrahim Omar,  Ag. General Secretary, Chris Uyot, Kiri Mohammed Shaibu, deputy president, Joe Ajaero, deputy president and Promise Adewusi, deputy president. Others are, Vice President, Issa Aremu, Vice President, Lucy Offiong, national treasurer, Ayuba Wabba, head of research, Dr. Peter Ozo-Eson and Head of Administration, Emma Ugboaja.

All 10 are members of the National Administrative Council.
The other two are, Michael Olukoya, president of the Nigeria Union of Teachers; the union that produced Abdulwaheed Omar and  Ibrahim Khaleel , national president of the National Union of Local Government Employees. The NLC list has only one woman , Lucy Offiong who is the chairperson of the NLC Women Commission.

The TUC List:-  The  Trade Union Congress ( TUC)  is made up of TUC president, Bobboi Bala Kaigama, Secretary- General, Barrister Musa Lawal, Mrs.  Dinatu Asibi Assani of the Association of Senior Civil Servants, Mrs. Olasanye Oyinkan, deputy president, Association of Banks, Insurance and Allied Institutions ( ASSBIFI) and chairperson of the TUC Women Commission and Sunday  Olusoji Salako, president of ASSBIFI,  Olakunle Olaitan , immediate past president of the Association of Senior Civil Servants.

Others are, Peter Esele, immediate past president of TUC, Augustine Etafo, president of the Construction Employees Senior Staff Association, Hassan Salihu Anka, staff of the secretariat who until about two years ago worked with the Agriculture and Allied Workers Union (AAWUN), an affiliate  of the NLC , Bede Opara, president  of Senior Staff of Electricity Workers, Maryam  Jumai Bello of PENGASSAN  and Aliyu Musa, chairperson of the TUC  in the Federal Capital Territory.

Comparison -  Whereas the TUC has three women delegates, NLC  which began  to integrate women into mainstream unionism as far back as 1986 has only one woman who is there simply because she is  the chairperson of the NLC Womens’ Commission.

*In the NLC list, no delegate  is from any 36 state councils and the federal capital territory, Abuja.
*Whereas TUC demonstrated that it has produced officers who have contributed to the organization by nominating Esele and Olaitan as delegates, NLC’s delegation is made up only of current officers. Does it mean that the NLC has no past? Hasn’t the NLC former officers who can adequately represent labour?

More importantly, the manner in which the delegates got nominated is a deviation from the NLC’S democractic procedure. In 1985-86 when NLC was to send delegates to the Political Bureau, the Central Working Committee of the NLC met at the secretariat and nominated Comrade Paschal Myeleri Bafyau , then Secretary General of the Nigeria Union of  Railwaymen and  Ibrahim Halilu, then president of the National Union of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions Employees to represent Nigerian workers.

Workers  representation to President Olusegun Obasanjo’s conference followed the same pattern. Representatives of NLC included, Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole, Sylvester Ejiofoh, Abdulkadir Salam etc.  Oshiomhole was perhaps the only NAC member.

In both instances, especially the political bureau, the NLC had a position paper which was discussed and endorsed by the organs of the NLC.

But this time around, the list is  made up of 10 NAC members and two CWC members had already been sent to the Presidency  before a CWC meeting was called to merely endorse. CWC members protested. The CWC is made up of all Presidents and General Secretaries of all affiliate unions that make up the NLC.

Asked for his comments on labour’s delegation to the national conference, Chief Frank Ovie Kokori, former general secretary of NUPENG  said, “ When I saw it, with 12 persons, NLC should have spread it even to veterans. You can’t just carry the whole of Congress to the conference, the president, is there, the Ag. General Secretary is there, vice and deputy presidents are there. This is something that an assistant general secretary could have been sent to present NLC’s position”.

Chief Kokori who also had the singular opportunity of representing the NLC at the Constitution Review Committee ( CRC) of the Babangida regime said of the NLC list: “ To me it was very embarrassing”.
He continued: “ For them to monopolise the list at the NAC level, I felt it was self-centered. The unions own the NLC, not members of the National Administrative Council. They should have spread it out”.

Chief Kokori told Labour Vanguard: “ I felt it was a bit selfish. I was embarrassed. I thought it was not proper for them to shut the Congress. No, you can’t shut the Congress, it isn’t right”.

Another source close to the Congress critical of NLC’s list of delegates wondered : “Did they know that money was to be given? Are they there to make money to secure delegates to vote for them at the next election?”.  Vanguard could not verify this allegation.

He disclosed to  Vanguard: “Already we hear that a union that was paying N3million monthly to the NLC is now paying N10million, and the president of that union is a NAC member representing NLC at the conference”.
The source said he was worried because, delegates to NLC conference are usually determined by the dues paid by the union and almost all those at the conference have their eyes on elected posts and appointments in the secretariat.

He commended the Nigeria Employers Consultative Association for the matured manner its representatives were chosen.

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