By Ikenna Omeje
The Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), has accused the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, of plot to proscribe the union.
NUPENG says that the plot by the Minister is not a surprise, because the Minister has been trying to get at the Union for picketing his house for failure to inaugurate the Board of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) with Comrade Frank Kokori as the Chairman.
Recall that the the leadership of Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and NUPENG about two weeks ago picketed the the residence of the Minister with two trucks, accusing him of planning to secretly inaugurate members of NSITF board.
In a statement signed by the National President of the Union, Comrade Williams Akporeha, the Union said that the directive by the Minister asking it to submit its Financial Return for 2018 within 72 hours, is against the provision in the extant law which stipulates 30 days, noting that its 2018 is the only outstanding the Union has.
“ The National leadership of Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, (NUPENG) vehemently condemns the perceived threat by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige to proscribe our Union despite our strict adherence to statutory mode of operations, laws of the land as well as international conventions since our formal registration as a Trade Union in 15th August, 1978.
“We are not surprised though, that this recent treacherous move by the Minister was an escalation of his violent reactions and attacks on organized labour’s (not just NUPENG) peaceful rallies and picketing to all places of interest to the Minister, over his failure to inaugurate the Board of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) with Comrade (Chief) Ovie Frank Kokori as the Chairman and use of armed thugs to attack Labour leaders.
“It is shameful that the Minister of Labour had to condescend so low by issuing a directive to NUPENG to produce its only outstanding Financial Returns for 2018 within 72 hours when the extant law stipulates 30 days, and even when such returns are supposed to be due by June 31st, 2019,” the Union said. The Union stated, “We have it from good authority that he has further carried all our files right from the inception of our Union (1978) to date in a bid to fish out phantom reasons he intends to use in proscribing the Union.
“Our fears were however confirmed further when we realized that it was only NUPENG that was instructed to submit its financial returns.”
NUPENG called Ngige “ a big bag of lies” and noted that despite all the embarrassments that he (Ngige) caused Kokori and the leadership of organized labour, they did not go on strike because of their love for the country.
The Union noted that following the announcement by the Federal Government on the issue, they withdrew to their shells. The Union further stated that the Minister is on a “self destructive mission” with his alleged plan to proscribe NUPENG.
“We wish to let the whole world know that Dr Chris Ngige is nothing but a big bag of lies and we further put on record that Dr Ngige called to congratulate Chief Kokori personally, when the Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo announced him in 2017 as the Chairman of the Board of NSITF.
“Despite this appalling affront on our veteran and the entire labour movement in general and the use of hired thugs by the Minister to attack Labour Leaders and the members, Organized Labour (including NUPENG) for the love they have for Nigeria, only resulted to peaceful protests and strongly resisted provocation of going on strike, knowing the collateral damage this will have on the country and the attendant effect on the socio-economic wellbeing of the citizenry,
“We decided to lick our wounds and withdraw to our shells especially after the declaration by the Presidency on the changes made. Nevertheless, NUPENG found this absolutely reprehensible and awful to say the least.
“Worst still, Ngige in his petty and infantile nature has proceeded on self-destructive mission to proscribe NUPENG because the Union dare to speak against what it believes was wrong and injurious to our interest. Ngige’s latest machination is purely a personal vendetta, ruthless in execution, sadistic in expectations and not 21st century Industrial Relations practice compliant,” The Union said.
The Union added that it has informed all their members in all the gas installation, including tanker drivers and other people in the value chain to be on a red alert.
NUPENG called on President Muhammadu Buhari and other well meaning Nigerians to call the Minister to order before he plunges the country into what they called “monumental industrial crisis.”
President Buhari had in October 2017, appointed Comrade Frank Kokori as NSITF Chairman, but Ngige who is alleged to be against the appointment, refused to inaugurate the board.
However, 17 months after, the Federal Government on Monday last week announced Mr. Austin Enajemo-Isiri to head the board in place of Comrade Kokori.