There was a brief altercation between the labour minister, Chris Ngige, and a lawmaker, James Faleke, during a hearing of an ad-hoc committee of the House of Representatives on Tuesday.
The hearing was billed to discuss the suspension of the management of Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF), but it began with both men trading words.
Asked to explain the reason for the suspension, Mr Ngige began with a taunt, saying the lawmakers were “his younger brothers,” except Mr Faleke whom he said “might be up to 60 (years).”
Mr Faleke (APC, Lagos), a member of the ad-hoc committee, did not let that slip. He cut in by saying “I’m 60 years.”
But the minister said even at that, “you are a small boy.”
Mr Ngige said he is in the same age bracket as Bola Tinubu, a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), who is seen as Mr Faleke’s political godfather.
“So you are near my age, at least I am seven years older than you. I’m the same age with your mentor in Lagos, Asiwaju,” Mr Ngige said adjusting his nose mask.
“And I was governor with him (Tinubu) at the same time. He was a senator, I was a senator. I am a two-time minister, he isn’t a two-time minister.”
In what appeared to be a mockery of Mr Nigige’s nullified election as Anambra State governor in 2006, Mr Faleke teased, saying Mr Tinubu “won all his elections very well.”
Mr Ngige, wearing his trademark flat cap, responded: “no problem about that, just like you won your own in Kogi State very well. And you are now the deputy governor and governor of Kogi State.”
Mr Faleke was the running mate to Abubakar Audu in the 2015 Kogi governorship election but missed out on the race when Mr Audu suddenly died moments to the declaration of the winner.
Mr Faleke attempted to redirect the discussion to its purpose by asking the minister to respond to the questions, but Mr Ngige still had more banter to give.
“I’m responding my friend, if you yab (abuse) me, I (will) yab you ten times. I am a Lagos boy. You are just a small boy in Lagos. Look at this Mushin boy, he’s talking with a VI boy. I lived in Victoria Island. Look at this Mushin boy from Kogi.”
Both men have been ruffling feathers since the minister’s controversial suspension of the management of the NSTIF.
Mr Ngige in letter dated July 1 said President Muhammadu Buhari had approved the suspension of the Adebayo Somefun-led board of NSITF over misappropriation and other gross misconduct.
Mr Somefun, who has denied wrongdoing, was asked to hand over to the next most senior official in the board, and face a panel that would investigate procurement dealings of the agency from 2017 to 2020.