…As Congress demands arrest, prosecution of hoodlums
…I never invited thugs nor take part in manhandling of workers – Ngige
Ukpono Ukpong, Abuja
No fewer than 9 members of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) was yesterday injured in an attack by thugs allegedly loyal to the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, while protesting at the minister’s Asokoro private residence over his refusal to inaugurate the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) board.
The NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, while addressing the journalists described the attack on workers as barbaric and called on President Muhammadu Buhari to urgently intervene in the matter to avoid further crisis that may engulf the industrial space.
“Today we were attacked by Ngige thugs while on picketing line. We’ve been having a running battle with Ngige and therefore it was the decision of our National Delegate Conference and also the decision of the National Executive council of NUPENG to actually protest the non-inauguration of two important Labour Market Institutions;
National Labour Advisory Council and National Social Insurance Trust Fund which he has continued to manage our funds as a sole administrator for the past three years and every attempt to get him to inaugurate fell on deaf ears.
“So this morning, we got the mandate from our organs to picket his office and house because he is a public servant therefore, both his office and residence belongs to the public but we were surprise that he (Ngige) then mobilized thugs with all manner of weapons to attack those workers who were very peaceful and harmless, and in the process, about nine (9) were injured. They are currently receiving treatment here.
“The Police Commissioner have come and seen them, even the DSS have confirmed. We have gotten the pictures of all the thugs and therefore, we are demanding that justice should be done.
They should be arrested because we cannot descend so low. In our history of industrial relations issue it has never happened in Nigeria.
“It’s really unfortunate that a Minister of Labour and Employment who is supposed to protect the workers is now the one attacking the workers.
We have called our National Central Working Committee tomorrow and we are going to review the situation and take appropriate position.
“Therefore, Mr. President must act on this immediately because the workers that were attacked are citizens of this country and they voted and supported him.
Ngige cannot in any circumstance assume the power the president. That cannot be the case.” Wabba said
On the other hand, the President of National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas (NUPENG) William Apkoreha, said that two of his members were missing following the attacks by thugs at the Minister’s resident.
He said that if by 12 midnight nothing is heard of his members, then all the Oil and Gas workers nationwide would have no other choice than to down tools in search for their colleagues.
“We were on a peaceful protest but due to the attack two of my members are missing and I cannot fold my arms. We will maintain sanity until 12 midnight.
If we do not hear a word from them, then every oil and gas workers in the country will enter the street to look for their members.” He added.
However, Ngige in his reaction as contained in a statement signed by his Special Assistant on Media, Nwachukwu Obidiwe, denied ever inviting any thug not to talk of having a hand in the manhandling of any worker.
“The private residence of the Minister of Labour and Employment, Sen. Chris Ngige was early this morning (4 a.m.) invaded by the President of the Nigerian Labour Congress and his members.
“These members among whom are tanker drivers, some with ferocious looks, also barricaded the gate to the resident of the minister with two long trucks.
They chanted war songs and prevented the minister, wife, children and other aides from either leaving or gaining access to the compound.
“I therefore wish to state that contrary to reports being mischievously circulated in the media by the NLC President, the Minister, family members who are still in great trauma and his staff members did not invite thugs, have no knowledge of it, or have a hand in the alleged manhandling of any worker.” The statement reads
Recall, the NSITF board was constituted by Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo in October 2017 in his capacity as the Acting President with Chief Frank Kokori as the Chairman and since then Sen. Ngige has refused to inaugurate the 11-member board rendering the agency powerless.
After much pressure, Ngige finally to inaugurate the board few weeks ago replacing Kokori’s name with that of Austin Enajemo-Isire as the Chaiman, a move the organized labour has rejected vehemently.