By Johnbosco Agbakwuru – Abuja
The Chief of Staff to the President, Professor Ibrahim Gambari, and the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, at the weekend met with President Muhammadu Buhari at Aso Rock over the worrying security situation in the Southeast.
The duo also briefed the President on labour issues including the recent strike embarked upon by the Judicial Staff Union of Nigeria, JUSUN and the Parliamentary Staff Association of Nigeria, PASAN that paralysed legislative and judicial activities in the country for two months before the strikes were called off.
Briefing State House correspondents at the end of the meeting, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige said that issues concerning the face-off between the Kaduna State government and the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, was also discussed at the meeting with the President.
Recall that the leadership of the NLC had complained to President Buhari that the Kaduna State government had allegedly refused to obey the terms of Agreement reached between the two parties after the Federal Government through the Minister of Labour and Employment intervened to broker a truce in the industrial dispute between the two.
Senator Ngige said that it was resolved that there was no need for another round of industrial disharmony between labour and the Kaduna State government especially as the country was faced with serious security challenges.
On the security situation in the Southeast, Ngige said, “We also looked at the security situation, especially in my zone, the Southeast and we made some proposal to him, based on the yearnings of the people, and what the government also wants.
“And we are following up with dialogue which at the end of the day is what will happen. We have to talk, we have to discuss. And part of the discussion starts also tomorrow (Saturday). The Minister of Defence, Minister of Interior and the Service Chiefs were in Enugu earlier last Saturday and we are going to do follow-up meetings on that again starting from tomorrow.
“We briefed him and he accepted that dialogue is the way to go in all these. Like I keep on saying there is a very tin line between perception and reality, so certain things should be done, at least to assuage the feelings of the people in the area and make them not to feel unwanted so that area was also discussed. “
The Minister further said that his mission at the State House was to brief the President on developments in the labour ministry with regard to the industrial action embarked upon by some unions.
He said, “I have to see him to appraise him with labour industrial milieu especially when you know that the judiciary and parliamentary workers JUSUN and PASAN respectively had been on strike that lasted for two months, we achieved a truce, through up an agreement and we have to today summit his own copies of Agreement to him.
“We are going to monitor the agreement. He is very interested in it. And if you remember, he had to do an Executive Order 10 in consonnance with the constitution, so that we have independence, financial autonomy for the judiciary and the legislature in the states.
“So it is one of the few things and he was happy that at least the strikes had been called off.
“We also looked at the Kaduna State government/Nigeria Labour Congress imbroglo. We have arrested the strikes, we have apprehended them and formed committees for the workers through the NLC and the Kaduna state government so that they can do some social dialoguing and reconciliation through that route.
“The NLC just five days ago, wrote to Mr. President complaining that the Kaduna state government wasn’t keeping to their own side of the agreement, signed, especially in the area of victimisation of workers, said that the government of Kaduna state has sacked some staff from their workforce for participating in the strike.
“And Mr. President sought for advice on it and we’ve transmitted the advice today. So, I and the Chief of Staff have jointly briefed him on that and we are taking action to make sure we don’t have a repeat of what happened in that state, he said that we have already been bedeviled with security issues, we don’t want any more compounding of those issues.”