The Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) has accused the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, of scheming to proscribe the union.
It said the minister had taken the first step in the scheme by asking NUPENG to produce its only outstanding Financial Returns, that of 2018, within 72 hours, when the extant law stipulates 30 days.
PREMIUM TIMES had reported the tussle between the Nigeria Labor Congress (NLC) and the labour minister over the inauguration of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) board.
The board was constituted by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo in October 2017 in his capacity as Acting President with a former NUPENG leader, Frank Kokori, as chairman.
But the government delayed the inauguration of the board and eventually replaced the chairman-nominee. NUPENG and the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) blamed Mr Ngige for the development, saying he was scared of Mr Kokori’s integrity.
In a statement sent to PREMIUM TIMES Sunday afternoon, the national president of NUPENG, Williams Akporeha, said Mr Ngige wants to proscribe the union despite ”our strict adherence to statutory mode of operations, laws of the land as well as international conventions since our formal registration as a Trade Union in 15th August 1978.”
Mr Akporeha said the attack on the union was an escalation of the violent attacks on organised labour’s peaceful rallies over the minister’s failure to inaugurate the Board of the NSITF with Mr Kokori as the chairman.
”It is shameful that the Minister of Labour had to condescend so low by issuing a directive to NUPENG to produce its only outstanding Financial Returns for 2018 within 72 hours when the extant law stipulates 30 days, and even when such returns are supposed to be due by June 31st, 2019,” he said.
“We have it from good authority that the minister further carried all our files right from the inception of our Union (1978) to date in a bid to fish out phantom reasons he intends to use in proscribing the union.
”Our fears were however confirmed further when we realised that it was only NUPENG that was instructed to submit its financial returns,” he said.
He said Mr Ngige has proceeded on a “self-destructive mission to proscribe NUPENG because the union dares to speak against what it believes was wrong and injurious to its interest.
”Ngige’s latest machination is purely a personal vendetta, ruthless in execution, sadistic in expectations and not 21st century Industrial Relations practice compliant. It is important to state here that NUPENG or its leadership never had any personal issues with the minister thereby taking a matter which is wholly official to this level, is to us the height of office abuse,” he said.
”Meanwhile we are by this press statement putting all our members in every Oil and Gas installations, including Petroleum Tanker Drivers and all other members in the value chain of the industry, on HIGH RED ALERT while we watch out for any further infantile and ignoble antics from Ngige, ” he said.
When contacted on the date the directive was issued by the minister, the Assistant Director Press, Ministry of Labour and Employment, Rhoda Iliya, said she was not aware of the development.
”I am not aware but we will get across to the HM to confirm please,” she said.
The union and the labour ministry had backed different people for the chairmanship of the NSITF board.
Led by NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, and the presidents of the member labour unions, the unions protested from Labour House in Abuja to the Ministry of Labour and Employment building at the Federal Secretariat on May 13.
The unions threatened to expose Mr Ngige to international ridicule.
Last week Sunday, the presidency said the decisions of Mr Ngige on the NSITF matter had the approval of President Buhari.
It also redeployed the labour campaigner, Mr Kokori, to the labour institute in Kwara State.
Mr Kokori was earlier appointed by the president to head the board at NSITF, but the minister opposed his nomination while the NLC supports the nominee.