“As sad as this new low by the Minister and his hired voice is, we must remind the Minister that gone are the days when a public officer will commit an offence or steal public money and then hide under ethnic or religious banner for protection.”
RESPONSE TO A STATEMENT BY OHANEZE ABUJA CHAPTER CHAIRMAN
Our attention has been drawn to a statement published in the Vanguard of 2nd May 2019 and The Nation of 3rd May 2019, and credited to the FCT Chairman of Ohaneze, Federal Capital Territory, one Odozi Nwodozi, in the defense of the less than honourable conduct of the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, over the matter of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF).
The facts of what have transpired between Nigerian workers and the Minister of Labour are in the public domain. The issue at stake does not have any tinge of ethnic or religious colouration. We are, therefore, surprised at the recent borrowing of ethnic voices in the defense of the Minister of Labour and Employment.
As sad as this new low by the Minister and his hired voice is, we must remind the Minister that gone are the days when a public officer will commit an offence or steal public money and then hide under ethnic or religious banner for protection.
The Nigeria Labour Congress is a pan Nigerian organization with a reputation for conducting itself dispassionately and for speaking truth to power. The NLC is populated by workers from all religious and ethnic orientations and can never play the sectarian or ethnic card.
The decision to engage the Minister of Labour was taken at the recently held NLC’s 12th National Delegates Conference – the highest decision-making body of Congress.
This was after all efforts including quiet persuasions from the NLC, the advice of the national leadership of the political party to which Dr. Ngige belongs and even a straightforward directive by Mr. President himself failed to make the Minister of Labour see reasons and do the needful.
This is not the first time that Organized Labour is engaging less than altruistic Labour Ministers. Comrade Adams Oshiomhole engaged very robustly a former Minister of Labour, Chief Alabo Tonye Graham Douglas over some of the latter’s anti-labour positions despite the fact that they are from the same geo-political zone.
During the time of Comrade Hassan Sunmonu, the then Minister of Labour, J.M. Johnson was engaged robustly on labour issues. Mr. Johnson never resorted to ethnic jingoism for cover. It is most unfortunate that Dr. Chris Ngige is the first Labour Minister to introduce ethnic colouration as an escape route from the smoke of industrial disquiet emanating from a fire entirely stoked by him.
Even workers from the village of Dr. Chris Ngige had protested against the stand of the Minister on this matter.
We wish to reiterate our deep respect for Ohaneze as a pan Igbo socio-cultural organization. It is, however, unfortunate that somebody in the lower cadre of Ohaneze leadership could be seduced to misuse his position to achieve the narrow objectives of a politician. We urge the national leadership of Ohaneze to be wary of such characters who are wont not only to tarnish but also to destroy the good image that Ohaneze has built for itself over the years.
We wish to candidly advise the Minister to quit using the press to malign the people he should be protecting. The way and manner that Dr. Chris Ngige is going about this NSITF issue clearly shows that he has a lot to hide and there is a lot he is not willing to tell Nigerians. The Minister should stop twisting the truth as most Nigerians are in the know of what he has been doing with the NSITF.
We urge the Minister of Labour and Employment to redeem whatever is left of his image by inaugurating the NSITF board under the chairmanship of Chief Frank Kokori without further delay. Finally, for the benefit of Nigerians who are unaware of the intrigues of the Minister of Labour to keep the NSITF under his Sole Proprietorship, we challenge him and other stakeholders to an electronic media debate on this matter so that the truth can be exposed.
Dr. Peter Ozo-Eson
3rd May 2019
*Photo: Dr Ngige