Labour Threatens Showdown over Replacement of Kokori on NSITF Board

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Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja

There was commotion at the Ministry of Labour and Employment Thursday morning as members of the orgamised labour stormed the place to put pressure on the minister to inaugurate the new board of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITFF).

The protest by the workers led to the cancellation of inauguration ceremony by the ministry.

THISDAY gathered that the minister, Dr. Chris Ngige, had sensed danger following the resolve by NLC to disrupt the inauguration and decided to shelve the event.

NSITF is a social insurance welfare facility meant to assist workers in times of difficulty or work-related hazards, but the agency had in the last one year operated without a board in place.

In a statement issued Thursday by the ministry’s Assistant Director, Press, Rhoda Iliya, the ministry said the postponement was to avoid the degeneration of the situation, where thugs were already manhandling some officers of the ministry and policemen attached to the office of the minister.

Kokori’s name was replaced by Mr. Austin Enajemo-Isire who was moved from the Michael Immoudu Memorial Institute, Ilorin in Kwara State.

The ministry had earlier issued a one-paragraph statement, saying, “due to circumstances beyond our control, the inauguration of the board of the NSITF billed for today (Thursday) has been cancelled. The inconveniences caused by this cancellation are most painfully regretted.’’

The press statement said that Kokori had been removed and replaced by Enajemo-Isire.

According to the statement, “President Muhammadu Buhari, has approved the appointment of members of the board of the NSITF a parastatal under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment.’’

It said the board is headed by Enajemo-Isire, a Chartered Accountant, professional insurance executive and banker.

Other board members include, Olawale Osuolale Timothy; Dr. Mohammed; J.Yinusa; Comrade Waheed Adewale Adeyanju, Ibrahim Khaleel, Ifeoma Anyanwutaku, Umma Aminu(Mrs.), Jasper Azutalam, Tijani Suleiman, and Mrs. Kemi Nelson,

Others are Ade Bayo Somefun (Member/Managing Director and Chief Executive) and Mrs. Ijeoma Orji Okoronkwo (Board Secretary)

The statement also said that President Buhari has approved the appointment of Kokori as the new Chairman of the Michael Imoudu National Institute for Labour Studies (MINILS), Ilorin, Kwara State.

According to the statement both appointments are with immediate effect.

The statement further said the replacement of Kokori with Enajemo-Isere and his transfer to the Board of MINLS) Ilorin, a diploma awarding institution in Labour Relations as chairman, 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 minister.

“The violent gate crashing and the illegal forceful seizure of the conference room of the minister this morning by thugs numbering hundreds and persons who clearly had no business with the inauguration of the board is totally unacceptable.

‘’Government, therefore, takes serious exception to the dishonourable actions of the NLC leadership and Frank Kokori, as well as his cohorts and warn that the ministry will not tolerate a repeat of hooliganism clearly unknown to ethos of civilised unionism”, the statement added.

But the organised labour has kicked against the new appointments, insisting that the NSITIF board be inaugurated with Kokori as the chairman.

The President of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Ayuba Wabba who led leaders of other affiliate union and workers to storm the conference room of the Ministry of Labour and Employment yesterday, described the delay in constituting the board of NSITF as an orchestrated plot to keep the management under a sole proprietorship.