Minister gives NUPENG 72 hours to render audited account
Union directs members to prepare for nationwide strike
By Victor Young
The disagreement between organised labour and Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, over replacement of Chief Frank Kokori as chairman of Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund, NSITF, has taken a new twist, as the minister has threatened to de-register Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, if it fails to submit its audited account to his office in 72 hours.
Consequently, NUPENG has directed its members to prepare for an indefinite nationwide strike should the minister take any further illegal step to pursue personal vendetta , attack, victimise the union in any guise.
The union also called on President Muhammadu Buhari and other well-meaning Nigerians to call the minister to order to prevent him from throwing Nigeria into avoidable industrial crisis of unpredictable proportion.
NUPENG in a statement signed by its president, Prince Williams Akopreha, yesterday, condemned the perceived threat of the Minister of Labour and Employment to proscribe the union, despite its strict adherence to statutory mode of operations within the laws of the land as well as international conventions since its formal registration as a Trade Union on August 15, 1978.
The statement read: “We are not surprised though, that this recent move by the minister was an escalation of his violent reactions and attacks on organised labour’s (not just NUPENG) peaceful rallies and picketing to all places of interest to the minister, over his failure to inaugurate the Board of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund, NSITF, with Comrade (Chief) Ovie Frank Kokori as the Chairman and use of armed thugs to attack Labour leaders.
“It is shameful that the Minister of Labour had to condescend so low by issuing a directive to NUPENG to produce its only outstanding Financial Returns for 2018 within 72 hours when the extant law stipulates 30 days, and even when such returns are supposed to be due by June 31, 2019.
“Meanwhile, we are by this press statement putting all our members in every oil and gas installation, including Petroleum Tanker Drivers and all other members in the value chain of the industry on high alert while we watch out for any further infantile and ignoble antics from Ngige.
“We, however, use this medium to call on our amiable President and Commander-in-Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari and all other well-meaning Nigerians to please call the erring minister to order before he plunges this country into a monumental industrial crisis.
‘’No one should test the patience or perseverance of oil and gas workers as our solidarity remains constant for the union makes us strong.”
The minister had in a letter by the Director of Trade Union Services, Mrs Damachi J.A, titled “Non-redention of annual financial returns,” said: “Records available to this office show that you are in default in the rendition of your Annual Financial Returns and Audited Accounts for the years 2017 and 2018 which is a contravention of Section 37(1) of Trade Unions Act CAP T.L4 of 2A04.
‘’In view of the seriousness of the above contravention by your union on matters of probity, accountability and management of Trade Union Funds entrusted to you, I am directed to request that all books of accounts of your union should be submitted to this office, in line with the provisions of Section 40 of the Trade Unions Act CAP T.14 (LFN) 2OA4 on or before close of work on Friday 17th May, 2019. Please treat as urgent and comply.”