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The Organised Labour has again castigated Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, over his alleged refusal to inaugurate the Board of the Nigerian Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF), which Labour claims is led by Frank Kokori even as union leaders threatened to embark on picketing and protests against any interest related to the Minister tomorrow, Wednesday.
The NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, said this during a press conference, on Tuesday in Abuja, where he accused the minister of habouring corrupt tendencies, nepotism and with the intent of running the NSITF as a sole administrator.
Recall that the Organised Labour had has hit the Minister with scathing criticisms and issued an ultimatum to him to inaugurate the Kokori-led board before last Wednesday’s International Workers Day celebration, but the Minister has maintained his position, saying that Austine Enajemo-Isere remains the man to chair the board according to the provisions of the NSITF Act.
The Ministry of Labour and Employment had through a statement announced the replacement of Comrade Frank Kokori with Austine Enajemo-Isere and his transfer to the Board of Michael Imodu National Institute of Labour Studies (MINLS) Ilorin, a diploma awarding institution in Labour Relations as Chairman, which it added followed due process and has the necessary presidential approval.
“The approval for this exercise was given by the appropriate approving authority which is the President and duly communicated to the Ministry of Labour and Employment. This is also in line with the Act establishing the NSITF which confers such powers on the President on the recommendation of the Hon. Minister,” the ministry had said.
However, the NLC President told the news conference that the it was the Frank Kokori led board that was approved by the Presidency adding that Kokori had been cleared by the Department of State Services (DSS) but the Minister decided to withhold his inauguration because he is not comfortable with the personality of Kokori, because his misdeeds in NSITF would be exposed as Kokori is someone who cannot compromise on standards.
This controversy has lingered for about four years but the latest face off between Organised Labour and the Minister is sure to deepen the crisis, especially as labour leaders have threatened the Minister with protests, which details were yet to be disclosed by union leaders at the time of filing this report. The NLC President said workers have decided to picket the minister continuously until the Frank Kokori led is inaugurated.
He said “we want to alert Nigerians that it has become evidently clear that the Minister of Labour and Employment is adamant on perpetually appropriating the NSITF in sole proprietorship.
“Nigerian Workers reject the manifest intend of Dr.Chris Ngige to continue to run the NSITF as a sole administrator. This is against the provision of the laws establishing NSITF and moral codes.
“We also reject Dr. Ngige handling of industrial relation, social dialogue and tripartite consultation on ad hoc basis”.
Comrade Wabba further accused the minister of being afraid of Frank Kokori credentials as someone who was a prisoner of conscience and has made enormous contribution to labour related matters globally when he was the President of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) among other laudable positions he held in the country.
“Dr. Ngige confessed to some of us that his major problem with the appointment of Kokori is that he is too rigid for his liking, we want to reiterate that it is only very rigid and incorruptible people like Kokori that we want to superintend over our money in NSITF”.
Wabba noted that the NSITF was set up under the Act (88 of 1993) to midwife contributions from employers to workers, adding that the major stakeholders in the organisation are workers and employers which by law are guaranteed two slots on the board.
According to him, the NSITF is supposed to operate under the supervision of the board, this is pursuant to part 1 section 4(1a-e) and part 2 section 4 of the NSITF Act. He said it was an aberration and a show of contempt for the laws and common decency for the NSITF to operate for almost four years without a board even as he urged President Muhammadu Buhari to call the Minister to order.
On the planned picketing of the minister, his allies and interest, the Labour movement, said they will employ all means legitimate to compel the minister to inaugurate the Kokori-led board. He said “since Dr. Chris Ngige has vowed to deploy every public resource possible to rob workers of representation on the board of the NSITF, we wish to announce our intention to meet him headlong.”We will make the industrial space uncomfortable for him as we will picket him anywhere we see him”.
Speaking during the conference, Frank Kokori said it was disheartening that the Minister would descend so low with his behaviour adding that he is qualified in all ramifications to chair the Board having been approved by the President.
Innocent Odoh, Abuja