Bank Retrenchment: I Know My Rights as Labour Minister, Ngige Tells Opponents


*Says I’ll not be party to drawing blood of helpless Nigerian bankers

By Paul Obi in Abuja

Against the backdrop of severe criticisms of his interference in the running of the banking sector and warning to banks to suspend sacking of their workforce, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Sen. Chris Ngige, said at the weekend that he clearly and constitutionally knows his rights, insisting that the directive to the banks was in order.

He has continued to face criticisms over the order to banks to reinstate sacked workers or face the wrath of the federal government. The National Employers Consultative  Association (NECA) accused Ngige of partisanship, populism and unprofessionalism, saying that ordering banks on what to do with regards to staff reduction was not far from a display of autocratic tendencies.

But in his appearance before the Senate Committee on Banking and Finance in Abuja, Ngige took a swipe at his opponents, contending that his directive to the banks falls within the purview of the constitution, adding that nothing was wrong with it.

The minister said: “I know my rights as Minister of labour and I will exercise those rights for the benefits of Nigerians, high and low. It is within my power to declare a truce in any industrial crisis. That was why I asked the banks; don’t retrench further and the unions; don’t picket the banks so we can sit down to resolve the issues.  The labour law on redundancy says in article 20 that if you negotiate redundancy and a party is dissatisfied, the Minister has the right to intervene.

“The law makes provision for the employer to disengage a worker if he cannot actually run his enterprise efficiently and effectively with a big load of staff in which case, he will declare redundancy but it states clearly the process for doing this.

“It says you must engage the labour unions in that industry and if it gets out of hand, the local unions will report to their national union. If they can’t resolve this, the parties, unions or the banks will refer it to the Minister of labour for conciliation.”