Ngige factionalised NLC leadership failure
By Odimegwu Onwumere
|Ngige, labour & Productivity minister|
In the international best labour practices many policies to arrest the contemporary socio-economic challenges are being formulated. The best of all are rules that see to the treatment meted out to people at work places which include basic human rights, respect for health and safety, and remuneration, amongst other rights. Whether Nigeria is following the international labour level, which standards have been integrated into a-variety-of conferences and proposals, is not certain with the incessant squabbles at the labour organisations in Nigeria.
The Minister of Labour and Productivity, Dr. Chris Ngige addressed newsmen at Abuja, in December 2015, where he said that the leadership of the ministry had plans to revive the National Labour Advisory Council, NLAC. He said that the aim was to put to front burner international best labour practices in the country. His views were that with the Council, there will be a boost in reviewing labour laws in Nigeria.
That was coming after the beggarly Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, under the watch of its supposed president, Comrade Ayuba Wabba had signed a congratulatory message it sent to Nigige early December 2015. It was, perhaps, after the letter that Ngige saw the need to make his love for the NLAC known.
While the NLC congratulating Ngige might be nice, what had the NLC been doing over the years to revitalize the NLAC, when it saw that it did not meet over the years, as it stipulated in the congratulatory letter? There is more to politics than the titular NLC under Ayuba yearns to be representing the interest of workers in the country. This is the NLC that had a botched election riddled with allegations of rigging early 2015 that was congratulating with Ngige and proffering solutions on how Ngige can achieve best labour practices. Hooey!
It is obvious that as Nigerians dismissed the leadership of NLC to have lost it, they have not said the obverse. Truth be told, the NLC in the present times has not been living by example. So, it was a feint for it to advise a respectable Labour Ministry and Productivity on what to or not to do. Since it could not conduct a transparent election, where did it learn to be transparent, free, fair and peaceful from to lend a voice to the Labour and Productivity Ministry? This is where Ngige has to be careful in choosing those that will man the affairs of the NLAC should it come on ground.
Nigerians have noticed that the present crop of NLC leadership is marred by interference by politicians. Initially, it was the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC). Against this backdrop, development had been embarrassed. Ngige should be weary of the NLC that took a decision at its conference last year to clear one of the aspirants, president of the Nigeria Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) Najeem Yasin for deputy president, to contest the election, having earlier been disqualified by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) president (Nasir Fagge)-led credentials committee.
Media reports said, “Yasin’s clearance to contest the election was said to have thrown up another unconstitutional scenario when the president of the Nigerian Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), Igwe Achese, who was vying for the position of president stepped down and declared support for another candidate, the general secretary of Nigerian Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE), Joe Ajaero, and then he (Achese) also being cleared to run for deputy president.”
In the light of that, there is a beaming leadership failure in the NLC. The outgone executive leadership led by Abdulwaheed Omar was a disaster. He allowed political elements to be interfering in sensitive issues as Labour matters, raising morality and integrity questions in the leadership of the NLC to bay. It is palpable that the NLC has not put its house in order; so, why coming to advise Ngige on what to do with the NLAC?
Just on Friday, January 8 2016, the leadership of the NLC asking Ngige to constitute the NLAC, early December last year, failed to resolve the leadership crisis rocking its congress. The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reported that the committee, headed by leading labour leader Hassan Summonu, failed to reach an agreeable resolution to end the crisis, in Lagos. While Ayuba is at one end posing as the authentic NLC president, Mr. Joe Ajaero is at one end addressing Summonu that he was disappointed over, what he said was the uncommitted attitude of some of the congress members to the reconciliation.
Hear Ajaero in the letter sent to Summonu: “We had believed that all of us were genuinely committed to speedily working through the process to reach acceptable compromise. The reconciliation is expected to assist the aggrieved parties build a new and vibrant movement and not pseudo outcomes that might further undermine Nigerian workers and weaken the NLC. We re-emphasis that we may no longer be found available at the table any longer if these meetings continue beyond the end of January 2016.”
This is the archetypal NLC under Ayuba and Ajaero. It would be pertinent, however, to lend advise to the Labour and Productivity Ministry that the NLAC should not be limited to advise. Referral to that was in 2011, Trade unions and the Namibia Employers Federation were worried that there should be a widened role for the Labour Advisory Council, which was limited to advise. All over the world, such Council as the NLAC is meant to promote social dialogue; to advise the Minister of Labour on a wide range of matters, which are not limited to ‘Advise’ but on matters relating to labour and unemployment. But sadly, the NLC has failed woefully in these areas but in-fighting!
While the then Namibia Minister of Labour, Immanuel Ngatjizeko inaugurated the 11th Labour Advisory Council in Windhoek, and drew its membership from the National Union of Namibian Workers, the Trade Union Congress of Namibia, the Namibia Employers' Federation (NEF), the Namibia Employers' Association and the Government, as was established in terms of the Labour Act; Nigerians are not sure where Ngige will draw the membership of the Council from. Certainly, not from the factionalised NLC!
Instead of drawing inspiration from the Trade Union Congress of Namibia, the Namibia Employers' Federation (NEF); the NLC is bent on playing politics. Whereas the Namibian Labour Act stated that “the council has the duty to investigate and advise the Labour Minister on collective bargaining, national policy concerning basic conditions of employment, and the prevention and reduction of unemployment”, the NLC is bickering offer leadership tuzzle. Hogwash!
Not minding, the Labour and Productivity Ministry headed by Dr. Ngige should know that hardly is there any country still operating in the old order as regards labour matters. In "Reinforcing Regional Rights: Labour and Migration", we were meant to understand that regional labour and migration rights remain an understudied policy area, hence Ngige should consider opportunities for new policy initiatives and labour policy coordination, whether they have to be regional or still federal; but what will matter most are initiatives and policy that will contribute to the building blocks for national analysis and should not be left for the bickering and tinkering NLC to decide.
This is because of the encroachment of Globalization. This phenomenon has uncovered workers, their employment and wages to the dynamics of the worldwide economy and global rivalry. Therefore, Ngige should understand that Globalisation has made workers to be more mobile, “both sector-wise and geographically”. The source said, “Globalization also has posed diverse challenges to national socio-economic policies, including labour policies, as the boundaries of “national jurisdiction” and national policy spaces have become less clear.”
Odimegwu Onwumere is a Poet/Writer; he writes from Rivers State.