- Minister accuses labour leaders of using thugs to invade his house
- Union convenes emergency meeting
Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
The protest embarked upon Wednesday by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) against the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, for his failure to inaugurate the board of National Social Insurance Trust Fund with Frank Kokori as the chairman turned bloody as the workers clashed with suspected thugs at the minister’s house in Asokoro, Abuja.
But the minister has accused the labour movement of mobilising workers, thugs and tanker drivers to barticade his private residence.
Following the protest at the minister’s residence, which resulted in a fracas that left some persons wounded, the NLC has convened an emergency meeting of its Central Working Committee to deliberate on the matter.
Those who were injured were taken to the National Hospital in Abuja for treatment.
President of the NLC, Ayuba Wabba, described the scene as barbaric.
‘The act today is barbaric; where maximum force has been used on workers. And live bullets have been used on them. Whereas workers went with bare hands but you have seen what has happened.
“They were carrying weapons and arms. And as I talk to you, we have four people in the hospital apart from those that were injured by bullets. You can see all of them are here and clearly we are going to invite our largest organ by tomorrow.
“We are also going on a larger scale of action. Instead of protecting us, he is against us. Therefore we have nothing to do with him and under the circumstance, except the president intervenes, workers are going to down tool.
“That is why we are inciting our central working committee. It has never been so bad where the ministry of Labour will bring thugs to attack workers. That has never been heard.
“It is on record and everybody has seen. Clearly, that is our position and now we are here to demonstrate in his office also that we are not happy and Mr president must act on this immediately. Workers voted and supported him. Ngige cannot in any circumstance assume the power of the president. That cannot be the case.”
Speaking in a telephone interview with THISDAY, the General Secretary of NLC, Mr. Peter Ezo Esson, said that the union was summoning “an emergency meeting for Thursday (today) to discuss the latest development.”
However, in a statement issued yesterday by the Special Assistant to the minister on Media, Nwachukwu Obidiwe, Ngige said his private residence was invaded at about 4 a.m. yesterday by Wabba and his group.
He said the workers, among whom were tanker drivers with ferocious looks, also barricaded the gate to his resident with two long trucks.
“They chanted war songs and prevented the minister, his wife, children and other aides from either leaving or gaining access to the compound,” he said.
The statement said the presence of these strange faces and their chanting of war songs by the invading NLC members created heavy panic among the family members, especially children and female aides who thought the sudden early morning assemblage were of the underworld.
“Some of these unknown faces and the two tanker lorries blocking the entrance to the house are still there as I send this press statement .
“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,” he said.
It was gathered that the protest however came to abrupt end when some young men came to the scene and chased the NLC members away.
This caused pandemonium as the NLC-led protesters tried initially to resist the fierce-looking youths and this resulted in some persons sustaining injuries.
The NLC president had to intervene to stop the protest.
The two tankers in front of the minister’s gate were removed from the minister’s gate at about 4 p.m.