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Why Ngige didn’t appear at May Day celebration?

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FOR the first time in many years, the sitting Labour Minister failed to identify with the Labour Movement in the country while celebrating the May Day; as Dr Chris Ngige, on Wednesday stayed away from the 2019 May Day celebration at the Eagles Square, Abuja.

While the Vice-President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, was at the Eagle Square to celebrate with Nigerian workers, the Minister, Dr Ngige did not show up at the event.

Of recent, the relationship between the Minister and the Organised Labour has gone frosty, degenerated and gone worse over his treatment of Chief Kokori, the former General Secretary of Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Union (NUPENG).

Delivering his May Day speech, the President of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Ayuba Wabba lampooned Dr. Ngige and declared that the Minister did not attend the May Day celebration because of the mischief he has engaged in, at the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) and on the appointment of Chief Frank Kokori, as the Chairman of the Board of NSITF.

The NLC president listed many sins of Dr Ngige, saying that the minister lied on many issues surrounding Chief Kokori’s appointment and the activities of the NLC.

Wabba said: “Comrades, distinguished guests, a number of you might have followed our recent exchanges with the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige over his several manoeuvres since 2017 to prevent the inauguration of the NSITF Board under the chairmanship of Chief Frank Ovie Kokori.

“In all our years of dealing with ministers of the Federal Republic, we have never come across one as dishonest and deceitful as Dr Ngige. From our account of what has transpired since September 2017, it is very obvious that the Minister has been bent on manipulating the situation and bringing up one deceit upon another to enable him to remain the sole manager of the NSITF, as long as he remained Minister of Labour and Employment.

“It is, however, the most dishonourable thing for a minister to tell bare-faced lies like this. It is also very disrespectful of Mr President to lie so blatantly that the President never approved Chief Kokori’s appointment as NSITF chairman. During the ceremony honouring the Heroes of June 12 993, at the Aso Rock Banquet Hall, President Buhari openly assured Chief Kokori that his appointment as NSITF Chairman stands!

“The Minister wants Nigerians to believe that Chief Kokori does not have what it takes to lead the NSITF. This is a very laughable claim because chairmen of parastatals and agencies have nothing to do with the day to day running of these organizations. They are appointed to ensure that the Board performs its oversight function of the management of these organizations. The executive management of these organisations is made up of all requisite professional to run the organisation successfully.

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“The above notwithstanding, Chief Kokori ran one of the most complex trade unions in Nigeria, to national and international acclaim. Chief Kokori got a Masters degree in Development Studies from the prestigious Institute of Social Studies in The Hague, Netherlands, 35 years ago, in 1984. The Minister was surely only engaging in mischief by trying to cast aspersions on the ability of Chief Kokori in this regard.

“We wish to conclude this segment of the speech on this NSITF saga by saying that we have tolerated Ngige and his antics long enough. From this May Day, we will henceforth not allow him to toy with the funds of NSITF which are contributions on behalf of the toiling workers of Nigeria in the private sector. Enough is Enough!”

However, in a phone chat with our correspondent, the Special Assistant Media to the minister, Mr Nwachukwu Obidiwe, said Dr Ngige tend the May Day because of ill-health; supporting his claim with the fact that the Minister has not been to the office since Monday.

Also, in a two-paragraph statement hurriedly issued by him and titled: “Why the Hon Minister of Labour/Employment Was Absent at Worker’s Day Rally,” he pointed out that all that was contained in the NLC speech were lies.

The statement read: “Contrary to uncivilized attitude and barefaced lies contained in the address of the President of the Nigerian Labour Congress, Ayuba Wabba, I wish to state for the avoidance of doubt that the Hon Minister of Labour and Employment, Sen Chris Ngige was absent at today’s Worker’s Day rally for reasons of ill health.

“The Minister has been down with flu since last Sunday. He met his doctors last Monday and has since been at home recuperating.”

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