By Victor Ahiuma-Young
But for the controversy over his last-minute substitution of veteran unionist and pro-democracy activist, Chief Frank Ovie Frank Kokori, as the Chairman of Nigeria Social Insurance Trustfund, NSITF, which pitted him against Organised Labour, Senator Chris Ngige, the immediate past Minister of Labour and Employment, ranks, alongside Chief Emeka Wogu, as the best minister that ever headed the ministry in recent times.
The tenure of Ngige as Labour Minister witnessed robust engagement with stakeholders and among his achievements was his total displeasure for work stoppages and strikes in the critical sectors of the economy. During his tenure, the former Anambra State governor was reputed for his penchant for apprehending industrial actions. He never shied away from summoning workers and their employers whenever there was the threat of industrial unrest in any sector and, in most cases, his dexterity aborted potentially crippling industrial unrest in critical sectors. One of his remarkable achievements is in the area of protection of jobs. For example, following public outcry over banks’ mass retrenchment in 2017, he summoned a stakeholders meeting to find amicable resolution and halted looming industrial unrest in the sector.
When it was brought to his notice that banks had disregarded his directive to stop the sack pending the stakeholders’ meeting, he threatened that government would consider withdrawing operative licenses of banks should they continue to sack workers.
The threat halted the mass sack. Never the less, Organised Labour is divided as to whether Ngige should be returned to Labour Ministry having being re-nominated by the President into the federal cabinet and confirmed by the Senate. While Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, appears not comfortable with Ngige’s return to Labour Ministry, Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC, sees nothing wrong if the President returns him. And whereas ULC is silent on the issue, the Federal Parastatals and Private Sector Pensioners Association of Nigeria, FEPPPAN, has actually pleaded with the President to return Ngige as Minister of Labour and Employment.