Says Labour’ll make industrial space uncomfortable for him
–I won’t be intimidated by rogue unionism–Ngige
By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
ABUJA—AS the conflict between the organised labour and the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige over the nor inauguration of the Board of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund, NSITF rages on, President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Ayuba Wabba said that in his meeting with the Minister, he had expressed dissatisfaction with the choice of Frank Kokori as Chairman of the Fund’s board.
He said that the Minister had confessed to some Labour leaders that his major problem with the appointment of Chief Kokori was that the Labour veteran was too rigid for his liking.
Wabba also said that the Minister in a ploy to remain as the sole administrator of the NSITF had claimed that in another meeting the Minister he (Ngige) said the reason for the delay in inaugurating the board was due to corruption cases in the Fund.
But the Minister in his reaction said that the allegation against him by the NLC President was a feeble attempt to wriggle out of shame and illegality, and vowed to remain unshaken on the part of the law.
Ngige also said, “The NLC can go ahead and picket the Ministry of labour and Employment and allied interests a million times, but I want to assure them that Ngige will remain on the side of the law,” the Minister said in a statement by his Special Assistant, Media, Nwachukwu Obidiwe.
He also said, “All the tissues of lies wrapped in a desperate escape route to nowhere by Waba has adequately been addressed variously. However, I wish to restate that the desperate moves by Ayuba and his co-travelers to impose their paddy-man as the chairman of the NSITF will continue to flounder on the insistence knockings of reason as well as the stoic resistance of the Hon. Minster to illegality.
“Hence, we make abundantly clear once more that the provisions of section 4(a) of the NSITF Act are very clear on the sole responsibility of the Minister of Labour and Employment to nominate a neutral, fit and proper person for the approval of the president for the Chairmanship of the board.”
Briefing journalists in Abuja yesterday, the NLC boss said that since the Minister had vowed to deploy public resources to rob workers of representation on the NSITF board, the organized would confront him headlong and make industrial space uncomfortable for him.
He said the organised Labour would picket the Minister anywhere they see him.
Wabba who briefed alongside the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas (NUPENG), Comrade Williams Akporeha,
expressed their intention to have a showdown with Ngige for not inaugurating the Kokori-led board.
According to them, it has become “evidently clear that the Minister of Labour and Employment is adamant on perpetually appropriating the NSITF in sole partnership.”
They accused the Minister of feeding the public with incorrect information about his reason for not inaugurating the board.
Brandishing a letter dated 28th March 2019 addressed to the Minister, Wabba said that the laws establishing the NSITF have stipulated that it should have a board which will serve as an advisory body, adding that operating the fund for the past four years without a board was illegal and an affront on the laws of the country.
“Since President Muhammadu Buhari approved the reconstitution of the Board of the NSITF, I recalled meeting with you on four different occasions on this matter. At our first meeting, you expressed dissatisfaction with the choice of Comrade Frank Kokori as the board chairman of NSITF,” he said.
Continuing he said, “I remember vividly that I reminded you of Frank Kokori’s track record of capacity and integrity and thus his suitability to head the NSITF board, especially given the scandals that trailed past NSITF boards and given the fact that Frank Kokori is perceived as being too rigid and honest”.
While asking President Muhammadu Buhari to call the Minister to order, Wabba said the fight against corruption by the President will make no meaning if people with integrity like Frank Kokori are not allowed to preside over money contributed by employers for their workers.
He said, “the Minister’s iron cast will to corner the NSITF as his personal cash cow is no longer in the realm of speculations. Persisting in his strange administrative brigandage over the NSITF, the Minister of Labour wrote directly to the Managing Director of the NSITF to within seven days constitute the NSITF membership of Trustfund.
“He went on to furnish the names of four nominees as his choice nominees, one of the nominees was a personal aide of Dr. Chris Ngige. By his action, the Minister of Labour clearly usurped the statutory duties of the NSITF Board thus further confirming his unveiled intention of running the NSITF as a sole administrator.
“As representatives of workers, we are responsible people and we have a duty to tell Dr. Ngige that his roller coaster ride ceased being funny a long time ago. We are disturbed that Dr. Chris Ngige apparently derives some strange kick in second-guessing and undermining the decisions of Mr. President.
“This is really unfortunate as it betrays a persistent strain of disloyalty, mischief, deceit, and contempt not only for President Buhari but also against Nigerian workers and public.
“Since Dr. Chris Ngige has vowed to deploy every public resource possible to rob workers of representation on the board of the NSITF, we wish to announce our intention to meet him headlong. We will make the industrial space uncomfortable for him as we will picket him everywhere we see him.
“Dr. Ngige confessed to some of us that his major problem with the appointment of Chief Kokori is that he is too rigid for his liking. We want to reiterate that its only very rigid and incorruptible people like Chief Kokori that we want to superintend over our money in NSITF.”
Collaborating Wabba, President of NUPENG, Comrade Williams Akporeha faulted the claim by the Minister that Chief Kokori was not qualified to head the Board of the NSITF, saying “Ngige is a Medical Doctor, but he is in the Ministry of Labour and Employment. Should he not be in the hospital?
Akporeha said information available to them revealed that the Minister was the one manipulating the entire process as President Buhari has not approved the removal of Chief Kokori as Chairman of the NSITF Board, adding that they will use every means possible to ensure that the Minister does not have his way.
In his brief remark, Chief Frank Kokori said if the Minister was allowed to win the “war”, then the anti-corruption of the present government will have a question mark, adding that the Minister was denying him the appointment given to him by the President because of his conviction that he will not be able to dictate what goes on there.
The Minister, however, said that he never nominated Chief Kokori as Chairman of the NSITF.
He said, “However, an appropriate recommendation has been made by the Hon. Minister in conformity with the NSITF Act and in fairness to the spirit of the labour tripartism. A chartered accountant, Senior Fellow of the Institute of Insurance of Nigeria and fellow of the Institute of Taxation of Nigeria, Austin Isire has been nominated and approved by the President as the Chairman of the board of the NSITF.
“A neutral person for the avoidance of doubt is one who is neither pro-labor unions which Kokori is nor Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA) an umbrella body representing private sector manufacturers nor a member of the government. This was the case during the recently concluded National Minimum Wage negotiation, wherein the spirit of tripartism , a neutral, fit and proper person, Miss Amah Pepple was nominated by the Hon. Minister and assented to by the President to chair the committee.
“Kokori, a labour leader, was nominated by Ayuba Waba and his journeymen to continue their vicious stranglehold on the NSITF and her sister parastatal, Trust Fund Pension where whoever is the chairman of the NISTF automatically becomes chairman.
“Ayuba, the labour leader is yet to explain to Nigerians his ominous silence over the pillage of the NSITF to the tune of N62 Billion naira when he took over as the NLC President. Nigerians had expected outrage from him as a labour leader who has constantly been claiming though in ignorance, the NSITF funds, as belonging to workers. Did his election to the first term of office benefit in any way from the oozing filth? Let him tell Nigerians and why he is scared stiff than any other person except Kokori should chair the board of the NSITF.
“We wish to state once more that the NSITF fund is not workers money as it does not subsist on contributions from workers salaries. It is an insurance premium, an insurance cover contributed by employers in the private and public sectors for the benefit of workers and employers who die or injure in the course of work.
“May I state for the avoidance of doubt that the Hon. Minister of labour and Employment can neither be intimidated by blackmail nor by hooliganism. Certainly, Sen. Ngige cannot be derailed from carrying out his legitimate duties as directed by the President by rouge unionism.”