NLC Accuses Ngige of Victimising NUPENG Leaders

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Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has alleged that the leadership of its affiliate union, Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) is being victimised by the Ministry of Labour and Employment because of their involvement in the protest and picketing of the residence of the minister, Dr. Chris Ngige.

It said that NUPENG had received a letter from the Office of the Minister of Labour dated 13th May 2019 with Reference No: ITU/FR/45/VII/15 requesting NUPENG to submit its 2018 Annual Financial Return within 72 hours to the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment.

In a statement issued yesterday by NLC’s President, Ayuba Waba, the labour movement said the minister’s directive is “a gross violation of Section 40 of the Trade Union (Amendment) Act 2005 and therefore an exercise in illegality and lawlessness”

The labour movement warned that such an action is capable of compounding the current fragile industrial peace in the country.

“We wish to state that the directive by Senator Chris Ngige for NUPENG to submit its Annual Financial Return within 72 hours is in gross violation of Section 40 of the Trade Union (Amendment) Act 2005 and therefore an exercise in illegality and lawlessness. Section 40 of the Trade Union (Amendment) Act states as follows:

“Without prejudice to the foregoing provisions of this Part of this Act, the Registrar may at any time call upon the treasurer, the committee of management or any other official of a registered body to prepare and submit to him within a period of 30 days from the date of the call letter detailed accounts of the funds of the body in respect of any particular period; and any accounts submitted under this section shall show in detail such information as the Registrar may direct, and shall, if the Registrar so directs, be audited by the duly appointed auditor before being submitted to the Registrar”.

NLC said that that the cruel urgency communicated in ministry’s the letter suggested a desperation to disorganise and destroy trade unionism in Nigeria.

According to NLC, it is also not a coincidence that this is coming on the heels of its recent protests against the activities of the Minister of Labour and Employment to undermine organised labour and trade unions in Nigeria.

“We wish to remind the minister that the right to protest and picketing are guaranteed by Section 40 of the Nigerian constitution, Section 43 of the Trade Union (Amendment) Act and Conventions 98 and 78 of the International Labour Organisation (ILO). Article 2, part 1 of the ILO Convention 98 explicitly forbids government and employers from meddling in the affairs of trade unions.

“We are privy to the fact that shortly after our last protest, a directive was issued from the office of the Minister of Labour to officers in the Ministry of Labour and Employment to fish for grounds on which to deal decisively with organised labour. We understand that the Nigeria Labour Congress is the primary target in the current overdrive to run trade unionism in Nigeria under the ground,” it said.

The congress further said that, “it is highly disgusting that this behaviour is coming from a so-called democrat who has had the privilege of seeking public acquiescence especially the votes of workers while contesting for the position of the governor of a state”.

It added that the intention of the minister’s recent directive is aimed at achieving narrow, petty and selfish ends.

“ We demand the withdrawal of Dr. Chris Ngige’s letter to NUPENG dated May 13, 2019, Ref. No. ITU/FR/45/VII/15. We also call for a public apology from the Minister of Labour for yet another round of assault on organised labour in Nigeria.

“Furthermore, we demand that the Minister of Labour and Employment publicly guarantees that he would desist from further harassment, victimization and persecution of workers, our trade unions and the two labour centres in Nigeria. We do not wish that the current fragile industrial peace in our country collapses completely on the account of endless provocations by the Minister of Labour and Employment,” said NLC.