The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has urged the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, to withdraw a controversial letter he wrote to the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG).

The letter allegedly directed the union to submit its financial return within 72 hours. The NLC said this was against Section 40 of the Trade Union (Amendment) Act 2005.

PREMIUM TIMES reported how NUPENG on Sunday said in a statement signed by its president, Williams Akporeha, that the labour minister sent a letter dated May 13 to the union to demand its financial report within 72 hours, ”when the law granted a 30-day period for the report to be submitted.”

NUPENG also said Mr Ngige is scheming to proscribe the union.

The union said Mr Ngige was demanding the report at the inappropriate time, warning that his action could plunge the nation into industrial crisis.

In a statement sent to PREMIUM TIMES on Monday evening, the NLC president, Ayuba Wabba, alleged that the labour minister was attempting ”to run organised labour unions underground.”

The labour union also asked the labour minister to apologise to NUPENG.

“NUPENG received a letter from the Office of the Minister of Labour dated May 13, 2019, with Reference No: ITU/FR/45/VII/15 requesting NUPENG to submit its 2018 Annual Financial Return within 72 hours to the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment.,” he said.

Mr Wabba said the directive by Mr Ngige was in gross violation of Section 40 of the Trade Union (Amendment) Act 2005 and ”therefore an exercise in illegality and lawlessness.”

“Given the above Act which the Minister of Labour and Employment is under oath to protect and defend, we wish to unequivocally posit that the cruel urgency communicated in his letter suggests only one thing – unveiled desperation to disorganise and destroy trade unionism in Nigeria,” he said.

Unending confrontation

This is not the first time the union will be tackling the minister this year.

PREMIUM TIMES had reported the tussle between the NLC and the labour minister over the inauguration of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) board.

The board was constituted by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo in October 2017 in his capacity as Acting President with a former NUPENG leader, Frank Kokori, as chairman.

The union and the labour ministry had backed different people for the chairmanship of the NSITF board.

Led by NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, and the presidents of the member labour unions, the unions, protested from Labour House in Abuja to the Ministry of Labour and Employment building at the Federal Secretariat on May 13.

The unions threatened to expose Mr Ngige to international ridicule.

Apparently to calm nerves, last week Sunday, the presidency said the decisions of Mr Ngige on the NSITF matter had the approval of President Buhari.

It also said it had redeployed Mr Kokori, to the board of a labour institute in Kwara State.

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