Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, has said he would not succumb to blackmail by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) to swear in the former Chairman of National Union for Petroleum and Natural Gas (NUPENG), Chief Frank Kokori, as the Chairman of National Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF).
Recall that on Wednesday the NLC had invaded and barricaded the residence of the Labour minister, in Asokoro area of the Federal Capital City, Abuja.
The protesters who stormed the residence as early as 5 am on Wednesday said they took the action against the minister for adamantly refusing to inaugurate the NSITF Board with Kokori as the chairman of the board.
However speaking to State House correspondents yesterday, Ngige said his resolve was to swear in as the chairman of the board, a completely neutral person from labour matters, a tradition he said disqualified Kokori.
He vowed not to be cowed by attempts by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) to force him against existing norm and tradition to swear in Kokori, pledging to resist it.
According to him, whereas NLC had disrupted the move to swear in members of the board of NSITF last month, another date has been fixed for the exercise this month.
Ngige who narrated how the NLC president, Ayuba Wabba, led protesters to his house with two tankers, fully loaded with fuel and half loaded respectively, on Wednesday morning in Abuja, said the protesters blocked the entrance of his house with one and his neighbour’s gate with the other.
Ngige who said whereas picketing was allowed in unionism, it was outrightly unlawful to picket a private house and consequently preventing him and his neighbour from going out to do their businesses.
Asked if he was planning to take any action, the minister said: “my neigbour said he is going to take legal action. I will also take legal action, illegal actions are actionable, nobody is above the law.
“Their grouse is the inauguration of the NSITF board. We had fixed the date for April 18th and they invaded the place with thugs and disrupted the function. We had postponed the function and said we were going to fix another date for inauguration but since then, they have been maligning my character and integrity because I am the Labour minister.
And they forget that according to the International Labour Organization (ILO) convention, I am what they refer to as the competent authority. Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, Mr. Secretary to the Government of the Federation will not come and do Labour matters. But, it is an obtuse thing we have here.
“The Labour people led by Wabba feels that they are secondary arm of government and he answers president of NLC, so he equates himself with the president of Nigeria. But there is only one sovereign authority of Federal Republic of Nigeria and for today by the grace of God, is President Muhammadu Buhari.
Asked if he had anything personal against Kokori, he said, “Nothing. I am following the law. I cannot recommend a labour coloured person, I did not recommend him and I am not foolish to do so. And if I am not foolish to do so, NLC should not arm twist me, blackmail me into a submission. I am not a man who will submit to blackmail and you will floor him, no!”
Asked if he was summoned to the Villa because of the matter, Ngige said: “No. Mr. President did not summon me, I came for a meeting and I have finished my meeting and I am going.”
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