Nine persons were injured and hospitalised at the Abuja National Hospital after suspected thugs clashed with workers who had gone to picket the residence of the minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige over the delay in inaugurating the board of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF).
This is just as the minister denied hiring thugs to attack or manhandle the protesting workers.
LEADERSHIP reports that the protesting workers led by the president of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) had arrived the Asokoro residence of the minister as early as 5am yesterday, and blocked his residence with two tanker lorries.
The workers accused the minister of substituting Frank Kokori who had earlier been appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari as chairman of the NSITF board and replacing him with Mr Austin Enajemo-Iseri.
However, while the protest was ongoing, a group of thugs attacked the protesters with sticks and stones, and chased away both the protesting workers and journalists; saying that no one should carry out protest at the minister’s private residence.
Following the incident, several persons were injured with nine rushed to the National Hospital.
Reacting to the incidence, NLC president, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, called on President Muhammadu Buhari, to urgently intervene on the issue, saying that the Labour Minister has disappointed Nigerian workers and that the attack on workers at his residence shows that he is against their interest.
He said, “The attack today (yesterday) where maximum force have been used upon workers is barbaric.
“Whereas workers went with bare hands, the thugs were carrying weapons and arms. And as I talk to you, we have nine people in the hospital apart from those that were slightly injured.”
Wabba insisted that NLC was going to invite more workers to continue the protest, saying “We are going to invite our largest organ by tomorrow.”
“We are also going to decide a larger scale of action. He has no reason to be called Minister of Labour. He is a lord of his own and therefore instead of protecting us, he is against us.
“Because of this action, we have nothing to do with him and under the circumstance, except Mr President intervene. Workers are certainly going to down-tools. That is why we are calling for a meeting of our central working committee tomorrow.
“It has never been so bad where Minister of Labour will bring thugs to attack workers. That has never been heard. It is on record and every body has seen it.
“We are here to demonstrate in his office and to show that we are not happy. Therefore 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.” Wabba, added.
Also speaking, president of National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) William Apkoreha, alleged that two of his members are missing following the attacks on workers.
According to him, “We were embarking on peaceful protest when the thugs attacked us. Two of my members are missing now and I cannot fold my hands. We will maintain sanity until 12 midnight. If we did not hear a word from them, then every oil and gas worker in the country will enter the street to look for their members.”
Reacting, the minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige said his family is still in trauma over the “invasion” of their residence.
A statement by his special assistant, Media, Nwachukwu Obidiwe said the private residence of the Minister of Labour and Employment, Sen. Chris Ngige was early yesterday invaded by the President of the Nigerian Labour Congress, Comrade Ayuba Waba and his members.
He stated that, “These members among whom are tanker drivers, some with ferocious looks, also barricaded the gate to the resident of the Hon. Minister with two long trucks. They chanted war songs and prevented the Hon. Minister, his wife, children and other aides from either leaving or gaining access to the compound.”
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