NSITF: NUPENG Joins Organized Labour In National Protest Against Dr Ngige

By Emmanuel Ajibulu

Despite scorching and visible unfriendly weather condition on Monday (May 13, 2019) in the city of Abuja, the National President and the General Secretary of Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) Comrade Williams Eniredonana Akporeha and Comrade Afolabi Olawale respectively joined other high profile labour leaders and civil rights activists that took part in a nationwide solidarity protest.

The well attended protest under the coverage of both local and international media was unavoidably arranged by organized Labour over leadership tussle at the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) board. The Union and the labour ministry have backed different people for the Chairmanship of the board of NSITF.

Labour was of the opinion that the former General Secretary of NUPENG, Comrade (Chief) Frank Ovie Kokori would do justice to the board if inaugurated as the board Chairman, this view point had sharp contrast to that of Labour Ministry.

It would be recalled that on Sunday (May 12, 2019), the Presidency said the decisions of the minister of labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, on the matter had the approval of President Muhammadu Buhari. It said the board will be inaugurated as planned.

It also redeployed the labour campaigner, Chief Frank Kokori, to the Labour Institute in Kwara State. Chief Kokori was earlier appointed by the president to head the Board at NSITF, but the Minister opposed his nomination while various labour organs threw their weights behind Kokori.

Sadly on Wednesday, May 8, 2019, journalists and labour members were attacked by thugs suspected to have been sent by Dr Ngige, during a protest at the minister’s residence in Asokoro, Abuja.

This ugly development necessitated the nationwide protest that began at about 9 am on Monday; it kicked off from the Labour House after a brief address by the NLC National President Comrade Ayuba Wabba. It had members of affiliated unions in attendance.

The union was protesting minister’s unwillingness to inaugurate the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) board with NUPENG’s veteran, Chief Kokori as the chairman.

Speaking at the protest, the national president of NLC, Ayuba Wabba, said the unions under common goal are protesting the attack on Nigerian workers during a protest to minister’s house.

“Members of International Labour Congress in Geneva will be protesting against Ngige on June 18,” he said.

According to him, Nigerian workers have the rights to protest and picket.

Meanwhile, whilst the protest was going on, the minister, Dr Chris Ngige simultaneously inaugurated the new National Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) board at the State House banquet hall in the presidential villa after a two-year delay in total defiance to labour agitations.

The Minister said the two-year delay in the inauguration was as a result of massive looting in the organisation between 2012 and 2015.

He added that between that period in view, the sum of N62.5 billion was contributed out of which N48 billion was unaccounted for and N25 billion was withdrawn without vouchers.

The new board is to be chaired by Austin Enejomo-Isire.

The past board members are currently being investigated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Ngige, however, charged the new board to resist the temptation of fixing special allowances for themselves urging them to execute their duties fairly and transparently.

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