The Nigeria Labour Congress has warned President Muhammadu Buhari not to return Dr Chris Ngige as the Minister of Labour and Productivity in the next cabinet.
It warned that returning the former Anambra State governor as minister would create industrial crisis, adding that Ngige lacked the approach to lead workers.
Towards the end of Ngige’s tenure as labour minister, there were clashes between him and labour leaders over his delay in inaugurating the board of the National Social Insurance Trust Fund more than three years after the expiration of the tenure of the last board. Labour also took on him over his exclusion of Frank Kokori as the chairman of the board. The union held a protest against him in his house which led to a fracas that landed some NLC members at the National Hospital in Abuja after they were allegedly attacked by thugs. President of the NLC, who led the protest alleged that the thugs were sent by Ngige to attack NLC members.
The Nigeria Medical Association, National Association of Resident Doctors, labour unions and some Nigerians also took on Ngige over his comment on a televised programme that Nigeria had no problem with doctors moving abroad for greener pastures because there were enough of them in the country to man hospitals.
When contacted, the Personal Assistant to Ngige, Nwachukwu Obidiwe, said Ngige had no power to assign a ministry to himself, adding that all the problems that the ministerial nominee had with labour unions were settled before the end of his first term in office as a minister.
However, in an interview with our correspondent, the Secretary of the NLC, Dr Peter Ozo-Eson, called on the Federal Government to assign Ngige to another ministry to avert industrial actions.
He said, “We think that government will be looking for problem if Ngige is returned to the Ministry of Labour and Productivity as minister because he does not understand how the place works and his own approach will create unnecessary industrial crisis.
“If government is properly advised, it should look for where to put him. Ngige is a square peg in a round hole in the ministry.”
Also in another interview with our correspondent in Abuja, the Head of Information at the National Union of Pensioners, Bunmi Ogunkolade, said pensioners would not welcome the former minister to the ministry.
He said, “Pensioners under the NUP will not wish Ngige to return to the ministry of labour. The President should take him to oversee another ministry. We don’t want him at the ministry again. He is a medical doctor, so why not take him to the Ministry of Health to be minister there? He might do well there since that is his field. This is our official position on Ngige’s return as a minister.”
Obidiwe in another interview with our correspondent on Sunday said Ngige performed well as labour minister and that he would not fail if he was assigned to man the ministry again.
He said, “It is the responsibility of the President to appoint and assign portfolios to ministers. Ngige will willingly serve in whichever ministry the President so decides. Besides, he has no personal issue with labour. What happened at the end of the last term was a matter of steadfastness to the rule of law or otherwise. He chose the rule of law in respect of the appointment of the chairman of the board of the NSITF.
“Don’t forget that labour later saw reason with his action, forcing the (former) president of the TUC at the valedictory organised by the ministry on May 26, 2019 to apologise on behalf of labour while commending him for his unimpeachable labour administration style.”