9th May, 2019
COMMUNIQUE ISSUED AT THE END OF A MEETING OF THE CENTRAL WORKING COMMITTEE (CWC) OF NIGERIA LABOUR CONGRESS (NLC) HELD ON THURSDAY 9th MAY, 2019 AT THE AUDITORIUM OF PASCAL BAFYAU LABOUR HOUSE, CENTRAL BUSINESS DISTRICT, ABUJA
An emergency meeting of the Central Working Committee of the Nigeria Labour Congress comprising all the Presidents and General Secretaries of the affiliate unions of the Nigeria Labour Congress and members of the National Administrative Council of the Congress held on Thursday, May 9, 2019 at Labour House, Abuja.
The meeting reviewed the circumstances surrounding the recalcitrance of the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, to inaugurate the board of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) after the directive of President Muhammadu Buhari to do so, and entreaties from the Organised Labour to inaugurate. The meeting reviewed the decision of the Congress Delegates Conference – the highest decision-making organ of the NLC – in February this year to picket the Minister of Labour and Productivity if he failed to inaugurate the board on or before May 1, 2019.
The CWC noted that there was credible information that Dr. Ngige was poised to surreptitiously inaugurate the board of NSITF in his house on Wednesday, 8th May 2019 having earlier failed to achieve same aim in his office and a hotel. The meeting went on to review the execution of the picket at the Minister’s official residence and office noting that it was lawful as it was done along a public thoroughfare facing his house and not inside his house.
The CWC noted that the workers conducted themselves peacefully and responsibly and bore nothing other than placards in line with the fine traditions of picketing.
The CWC observed that in spite of conducting themselves reasonably well, responsibly and peacefully, the Minister of Labour, Dr. Chris Ngige, mobilized thugs and hoodlums to attack the workers using all manner of weapons including stones, planks, rods, etc. In fact, the chief detail of Dr. Chris Ngige was identified during the well-organized assault on our members dishing instructions to the thugs that attacked workers.
The CWC observed that during this mindless violence, the thugs caused maximum damage to the vehicles of workers, affiliate unions and Congress. The CWC noted that workers suffered varying degrees of personal losses. CWC also observed that at least nine workers suffered serious injuries with three admitted at the National Hospital, Abuja.
The CWC, accordingly, condemned in the strongest terms the use of thugs to break up a peaceful picket guaranteed by the Law, adding that it is anti-democratic, repressive and anti-workers. It is also a violation of ILO Conventions and the fundamental right of workers to protest. The CWC said all workers in Nigeria and around the world have the right to freely associate or freely disagree.
The CWC expressed concern that the Minister of Labour and Employment, part of whose duty is to uphold the sanctity of labour laws as well as conduct himself as a conciliator or an impartial arbiter could degenerate to the level of engaging thugs.
CWC noted that one of the reasons the Minister gave for not inaugurating the board since 2017 was that he was carrying out an administrative probe of corruption in NSITF. The truth however is that it was an unnecessary excuse for him to micro-manage the place as well as carry on as the sole administrator of the place for obvious reasons. The CWC wants to put on record that the EFCC has since carried out investigation, taken to court those with cases to answer and secured convictions. Among those convicted is a former Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Labour who was a statutory member of NSITF board. No member of Organised Labour on the board was found wanting.
CWC further noted that no matter how long Dr. Ngige holds onto the sole proprietorship of NSITF, no matter who he places there to cover up his tracks, he cannot escape a probe of his activities at the appropriate time. The CWC said that it has no doubt that Dr. Ngige will be called upon to account for his activities at the NSITF.
CWC noted that the use of thuggery to resolve issues of dispute introduces new dangerous dimensions in labour relations whose outcome cannot easily be predicted as no one has a monopoly of violence.
CWC expressed shock that security forces watched with detached indifference as hoodlums unleashed mayhem at defenseless workers. It similarly expressed dismay that no voice has been heard from the government condemning this unnecessary display of savagery and primitivism.
Accordingly, the CWC resolved to demand for an unconditional and unqualified apology from the government both for the primitive behavior of its Minister and its suspicious silence, explaining that whereas the Vice President found it necessary to step out of his car to address indigenous communities which were protesting against the forceful acquisition of their land by the military, the minister resorted to recruiting thugs to engage workers.
The CWC resolved to hold Dr. Chris Ngige personally responsible for the violence visited on the workers and injuries that they suffered, adding they have sown a seed of violence. The CWC also resolved to send his name to all airports, train stations, shipping ports and all public entry and exit point around the world in other to have visited upon him protest and disgrace for his ignominious role in the violence unleashed against workers.
It is important to underscore the fact that Dr. Chris Ngige has built a reputation of lies, truth twisting and controversies in the course of his political career which is unbecoming of a public officer. Nigerians will remember his latest lies on the surplus number of medical doctors in a country in dire need of trained medical professionals. Nigerians have also not forgotten Ngige’s past records of trading off his conscience for power as evidenced by his infamous Okija Shrine melodrama, his reputation for using thugs against the citizenry, and his questionable acts around NSITF. CWC, therefore, concluded that Dr. Chris Ngige is not fit to hold public office.
The CWC called for the arrest and prosecution of the thugs and their sponsors since they are well known.
The CWC demanded that government should come clean about what is happening.
The CWC resolved to embark on a national protest on Monday, May 13 2019 in Abuja against the brutalization of its members by the Ngige thugs, and has accordingly directed its members and civil society allies to commence immediate mobilisation.
The CWC resolved that they were ready to be killed by the thugs hired by Dr. Ngige or security agents who maintained a complicitous silence while defenseless workers were being mowed down.
Finally, the CWC also demanded that the board of the NSITF be inaugurated with Chief Frank Kokori as Chairman without further delay, as the funds at the NSITF belong to workers, warning that anything to the contrary is capable of inviting more protests.
Comrade Ayuba Wabba, mni.
Dr. Peter Ozo-Eson