By Joan Nwagwu
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Christ Ngige, has denied the allegations by the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) and the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) that he was on a vendetta mission to proscribe NUPENG.
Ngige said this in a statement by Mrs Rhoda Iliya, Head, Press and Public Relations in the ministry, on Tuesday in Abuja.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that NLC had on Monday called on the minister to withdraw a letter written to NUPENG, which allegedly directed the union to submit its financial returns within 72 hours.
The minister described the allegation by the labour union as “cheap and unconscionable lies”.
“What a mischief from two organisations that have traded decorum for cheap propaganda.
“On 13th May, 2019, a letter was written by the Department of Trade Union Services and Industrial Relations (TUSIR) of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, precisely by the Registrar of Trade Union to both the NUPENG and Trade Union Congress (TUC).
“The letter draw the attention of the Unions to the non-rendition of their financial returns for the years 2017 and 2018.
“The letter directed that the unions should comply according to the provisions of Sections 40 and 37(i) of the Trade Unions Act of 2004.
“It states that every registered body shall send to the registrar before 1st June in each year, an annual return in the prescribed form and shall be certified as correct by the duly appointed auditor.
“The NUPENG and TUC being in breach of this Section 37(i), the Registrar of Trade Union invoked Section 40 of the Trade Unions Act Cap T.14(LFN) 2004, which gives the Registrar of Trade Union powers to request that all the books of accounts of defaulting unions be submitted to the Registrar for further scrutiny to make for accountability in the management of the unions’ funds,” he said.
He said that this include check-of dues of workers deducted at source from their salaries.
Ngige explained that the TUC President personally came to the ministry to explain his predicament and asked for extension of time on compassionate ground.
“The ever combative, arrogant and ill-informed NUPENG leadership took to the press for base name-calling, reminding everyone of their ill-fated invasion of the private residence of the Hon. Minister and asking this group of junior cadre oil workers.
“This is especially tanker drivers to be on red alert for strike, thus threatening Nigerians instead of apologies for being in default. We warn NUPENG to cease forthwith with this senseless bogey of tanker drivers.
“It is evident that the ministry was only carrying out its statutory functions. NUPENG was not singled out, neither was it asked to provide only the annual report of 2018 as they had conducted their 2019 conference.
“The ministry therefore wishes to state that the minister has no intention of proscribing NUPENG or any Union whatsoever, though constitutionally empowered to do so if need be,” he said.
He warned the leadership of NUPENG to desist from misleading the public by spreading false information about the ministry.
“In the same vein, the Ministry notes that NLC, who unfortunately is crying more than the bereaved, knowing full well that NUPENG is affiliated to the United Labour Congress(ULC) has suddenly realised that the minister was the only competent authority in all labour matters in line with the provisions of the ILO.
“How we wish it had realised this all the while and not engage in a futile, ill-advised skirmish with the Hon. Minister over a constitutional right of the President to make political appointments,” he said.