A former secretary of the National Union of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions Employees (NUBIFIE), Mr David Azuokwu, has strongly condemned the recent invasion of the residence of the Honourable Minister of Labour, Dr. Chris Ngige by the Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC. David Azuokwu said the NLC’s action is alien to labour laws, describing the invasion of Minister’s private residence and threat to his life as criminal.
It said, “The NLC actions, led by its President, Ayuba Wabba, is unknown to Nigerian and international labour extant laws guiding trade dispute and grievances. The illegal invasion in the guise of picketing the private residence of the Hon Minister of Labour, Dr Chris Ngige, is highly condemnable and should not be allowed in the country.”
Azuokwu submitted that the invasion, which was supposedly to pressure the Minister to inaugurate Chief Chief Frank Kokori as Chairman of the NSITF, was a lawless action. “The appointment of any qualified Nigerian into political office at the federal level is at the prerogative of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria or by the recommendation of the supervisory minister, in this case, the Minister of Labour and Employment. The provision of Section 4(1) (a) of the 1993 NSITF Act, vested the sole power to make recommendation for the Appointment of the Chairman of the Board of NSITF to the president on the Minister of Labour and Employment.”
He added that the NLC President and members of the union are not recognized by the NSITF Act to nominate, recommend any person for the position of the Chairman of the Board. “Nigerians wonder where the NLC president got the powers to compel the Minister to swear in their preferred candidate as the chairman without presidential approval.”
Citing the law establishing the NSITF, the former NABUFIE scribe explained that section 4(1)(b)(ii) of the NSITF Act gives the NLC the prerogative to nominate two representatives to the Board of NSITF and they must go through the recommendation of the Hon Minister to the president. “Their Two Nominees were duly recommended and approved by the president. What then is the interest of NLC and its President insistence on a particular person? Can Ayuba Wabba tell us the hidden interest that is making him to act outside his jurisdiction? Is there any compromise which has emboldened the NLC President to throw caution into the winds? Or what extraneous factors are driving him to the hole of illegalities in this matter?” Azuokwu.
“The action of NLC in preventing the Minister of Labour from exercising his responsibilities is tantamount to breath of peace. The NLC President must tell Nigerians why he is undermining his functions and responsibilities of the organized labour.
“The appointment of the Chairman of NSITF Board is not a trade dispute item in labour law, practice and regulations. Members of the NLC should ask NLC President where he derives his power and why is he misleading NLC blindly to pursue a course of action that is not for the interest of Nigerian workers but his selfish interest.”
While alleging and condemning other anti-labour activities by the leadership of the NLC, the former labour leader said the NLC President has consistently made erroneous insinuations that NSITF fund belongs to workers. It however explained that the funds of NSITF are contributions made by employers to procure mortality and disabilities benefits on behalf of employees in the event of the occurrence of occupational hazard while in active service.
Azuokwu called on the National Executive Council, Central Working Committee and all other organs of NLC to call its President to order, as according to it, Wabba has no power to query any appointment made by the President on the recommendation of the Minister of Labour and Employment. “I believed that the intervention of these organs will save the congress from being dragged into the mud and forget its important internal matters. The NLC needs to focus on the matter of importance bordering on accountability rather than drifting to calamities,” it said.