By Brendan Umoren
The Nigeria Labour Congress on Sunday told the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, to inaugurate Chief Frank Kokori as the chairman of the board of the National Social Insurance Trust Fund before May 1, this year.
The inauguration of the board was scheduled for April 18, 2019 but it was postponed when the NLC protested the exclusion of Kokori as the chairman.
A statement from the ministry later accused the NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, of leading thugs to the venue of the inauguration.
But in a statement signed by the NLC president, the union described the ministry’s statement as irresponsible.
The statement said, “The attention of the NLC has been drawn to a press statement signed by Rhoda Iliya, Assistant Director, Press, on behalf of Dr Chris Ngige, Minister of Labour and Employment, in which the president of the congress was alleged to have imported violent thugs to disrupt the inauguration of the board of NSITF, which was to have taken place on April 18, 2019.
“We are left dumbfounded at the depth Ngige is prepared to go in lying to the nation and the world to cover his doomed plan to hoodwink Nigerians on his elaborate intrigue spanning three years to prevent the inauguration of the board of the NSITF.”
The NLC said Wabba led leaders of the union to the venue of the inauguration and waited for more than two hours, adding that there was no report of breakdown of law and order at the venue.
It added, “The fact that there was not even a single reported incident of breakdown of law and order, or the arrest of any person for unruly behaviour is a categorical attestation to the peaceful and calm manner in which all those who came for the occasion conducted themselves.
“We are therefore shocked with the deployment of derogatory and confrontational words by Minister Ngige. As social partners, we naturally expect the Ministry of Labour and Employment and any of its ministers or members of staff to relate with organised labour guided by utmost dignity. Any Minister of Labour who thinks organised labour is subordinate to him or her or the ministry is clearly living in illusion.”
While calling on Ngige to inaugurate the board, NLC accused the minister of desperation to turn the NSITF into his personal estate.
“Calling the topmost hierarchy of the NLC thugs and hooligans is to say the least most irresponsible. It is worst (and most disrespectful) calling one of our most revered veterans a thug and hooligan. Without the painstaking sacrifice of our movement, led by the Kokoris of the world, there would be no democracy under which an Ngige would aspire to be a governor of a state, a senator of the Federal Republic or the minister that he is.
“Going forward, the dropping of the name of Mr President notwithstanding, we expect Minister Ngige to inaugurate the board of the NSITF under the chairmanship of Chief Frank Ovie Kokori on or before the 2019 May Day,” the statement noted.