The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, says he and his neighbour are considering taking legal action against the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) over the blockage of their houses by the union.
Ngige, who spoke with State House correspondents on Thursday at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, said blocking his house was an infringement on his fundamental human rights and that of his household as they were all traumatised.
The NLC had in the early hours of Wednesday took a protest to Ngige’s Asokoro, Abuja residence, over his failure to inaugurate the board of National Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) with Frank Kokori as the chairman.
There were reports alleging that NLC members were attacked by suspected thugs allegedly hired by the minister who inflicted various degrees of injury on the protesters.
The NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, had described the scene as barbaric.
“The act today is barbaric; where maximum force has been used on workers. And live bullets have been used on them.
“ Whereas workers went with bare hands but you have seen what has happened.
“They were carrying weapons and arms. And as I talk to you, we have four people in the hospital apart from those that were injured by bullets,’’ Wabba had said.
Ngige, however, denied the allegations of attacks, saying that reports he read in the dailies were unfortunate and misleading.
He said that NLC members arrived at his resident at 4:30 a.m in the morning.
The minister said that when the security people accosted them, they discovered that it was the president of NLC himself that came physically with two tankers one laden with petrol and one half-full.
He said he immediately contacted the FCT Commissioner of Police and the Director of SSS as well the FRSC to see if the tankers could be removed.
Ngige said that his findings showed that the NLC members were attacked by the thugs they hired over some disagreements.
“They put one at the gate of my house and put the other one at the gate of the other house which happens to be that of my neighbour.
“People in that compound were traumatised; some of the cooks and policemen who have quarters were traumatised.
“ It cannot be quantified. Even my neighbours, the husband and wife and their children could not do their business yesterday.
“Those tankers were removed around 6.O’clock or so; it is quite unfortunate.
“My neighbour said they would take legal action; me also. It is an actionable thing; illegal actions are actionable. Nobody is above the law,’’ he said.
He said it was all about NLC’s contention on the composition of the NSITF board and its inauguration.
He said the event was postponed and a new date was going to be fixed but NLC had been maligning his character and integrity because he was the Labour Minister.
“They forget that by International Labour Organisation(ILO) Convention, I am what the ILO calls the competent authority.
“ The president will not come to do labour matters; the vice president will not come to do labour matters; neither will the Secretary to the Government of the Federation come to do labour matters until I pass the matters to them.
“But it is an obtuse scene that we have here; the labour people led by Wabba, under the NLC leadership, feels that they are secondary arm of government.
“ He equates himself with the president of Nigeria; but there is only one sovereign in Nigeria and that sovereign is the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and for today, by the Grace of God, is President Muhammadu Buhari.’’
Ngige said that the Act setting up the NSITF gave labour two nominees, private sector two nominees but NLC appropriated the two for labour and made their nomination.
He said that the government had also made its own nomination.
The minister said that the government had approved a fit and proper person, who was neutral, not a government officer, not a labour coloured man and not a private sector man.
According to him, that is what obtains in tripartite agreements.
He said that, as the minister permitted by law to do that recommendation, he did not recommended Kokori.
The minister dismissed insinuations that he was summoned to the Presidential Villa because of the May 8 incident in his residence, saying he was in the villa for a meeting with President Buhari