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Nigeria general strike targets labour minister Ngige

By Eromo Egbejule
Posted on Monday, 13 May 2019 17:37

President of the Nigeria Labour Congress Ayuba Philibus Wabba leads anti-government protesters during a march in Abuja, Nigeria February 9, 2017. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde

Nigeria's umbrella labour union body commenced a nationwide strike today

They are calling for the sacking of minister of labour and productivity, Chris Ngige.

The Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) is protesting appointments onto the board of the National Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) — the body in charge of insurance and social security for all Nigerian workers.

The genesis

In 2017, vice-president Yemi Osinbajo appointed members into the board, including Frank Kokori, a former chairperson of the NLC named as chair.

  • However, Ngige refused to inaugurate the board since then, claiming there was massive corruption in the parastatal between 2012-2015, including misappropriation of N48 billion ($133.3m) from the total N62 billion ($172.2m) in contributions realised during that period.
  • The new board is being inaugurated today in Aso Rock, with Kokori noticeably absent. An attempt to inaugurate the board in April 2019, was disrupted by the unionists.
  • Kokori, a veteran of the June 12 democracy struggle, is also the representative of the labour union on the board but Ngige has insisted on sending him to the national institute of labour studies instead.
  • A threat by Adams Oshiomhole, the feisty chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) – who has a past as an even feistier head of the NLC – to sack the minister for not complying with a presidential directive to ministers to inaugurate boards under their jurisdiction has barely fazed Ngige.

An escalating crisis

Things have turned violent even as both sides refuse to back down:

  • The NLC picketed the minister’s house and the ministry complex last week. In the process, thugs loyal to Ngige attacked them with guns and other weapons. At least four people lie injured in the hospital, according to the NLC.
  • Ngige has also said he was considering court action, describing the action of the labour union as “flimsy and selfish”.

Doomed before it has begun?

The presidency had curiously maintained its silence throughout. But current NLC chair Ayuba Wabba claims Vice President Yemi Osinbajo told him at a May Day parade that Kokori was still head of the NSITF board.

  • Eventually, the presidency has been forced to back Ngige, according to a statement released at the weekend.

Bottom line: With the elections gone, the presidency’s backing of the minister could be enough to force an end to the strike, barring a miracle from Oshiomhole and the NLC.

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