The Nigeria Labour Congress has opposed the substitution of Frank Kokori as new Chairman for the Board of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund, a parastatal under the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment.
Ayuba Wabba, NLC President, said this at the Ministry of Labour and Employment where the board was to have been inaugurated on Thursday in Abuja.
Wabba alleged that President Muhammadu Buhari had appointed Kokori as the Chairman of Board of the NSITF, but the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, changed the appointment.
He said: “If Kokori has been declared by renowned world leaders as prisoner of conscious and has been appointment by M.r President, the minister had no right to manipulate the process by changing it.
“Kokori has not been informed that there is a new Chairman of the board.
“The minister had earlier informed him that Mr. President has appointed him as the chairman of board and he has undergone all necessary security screening.
“So, close to three years now, they have refused to inaugurate the board due to one reason or the other and we can see today that they do not want somebody that is transparent to manage workers money just for no reasons just to delay the process.
“We have waited patiently for three and half years and the minister has been the sole administrator with a lot of theories he has raised.
“The reasons was given that the approval was made by Acting President then, and he needed to revalidate and which we did.
“Second reason he gave was that there had been corruption in the place and he needed to clean the place up and we said yes.
“The third reason was that after cleaning the place, he needed to implement the report and that he said he needed two weeks.”
Wabba said it was wrong for the minister to run the NSITF board as the sole administrator as it was the money contributed by employers for the social security of cover for their employees.
He noted that the NLC and the Nigeria Employers Consultative Association have two members each on the board and the ministry has one.
Wabba said: “Enough of one person administrator to manage our money and our resources because public office is public trust, let us not allow a situation where people will continue to feast on our resource and claimed that they are actually fighting corruption.
“Corruption means that we can also interrogate the sole administrator that has been managing our money; that is why we are here to protest the injustice where people have been feasting on our money for three years and they do not want the board to be inaugurated.
“The law said that NLC shall be consulted before the inauguration of the board but they never did that. We shall also be calling for the audit of the minister as the sole administrator for the past three years.
“We want transparency and good governance, it our money, we cannot sweep issues under the carpet, it is workers money and their social security, and we need to protect that money. We will be on standby until the ministers do the needful.”
Ajibola Ibrahim, the Director, Human Resources in the Ministry of Labour and Employment, said the minister was unavoidably absent and some members to be inaugurated were not on ground.
Ibrahim said the inauguration had been scheduled for a later date.
Williams Apkoreha, the President, Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, said the union would resist any attempt by the minister to secretly inaugurate the board.
Akporeha said the union would mobilise Nigerian workers to resist the inauguration of the board if the minister failed to openly inaugurate the board that Buhari had initially approved.
“Any board that is inaugurated without Kokori as Chairman of board will not be acceptable to Nigerian workers,” he said.
Kokori, former General-Secretary of NUPENG, expressed disappointed at the outcome of events.
He said: “I stood my grounds for democracy and I have fought for this county, there were temptation to take the biggest brides but I choose to stand for democracy, so 20 years after democracy, Frank Kokori is being oppressed by somebody like Ngige.
“The reason is because Frank Kokori is a man of integrity, a man of honour and a transparent Nigerian. This also a government who talks of integrity and I have been humiliated by the minister for the past two years after the appointment has been given to me.
“Why should I subject myself for two years of trauma and he has congratulated me more than five times and has promised me everyday.
“The President has also assured me in the last two years. I feel the minister is on his own, dropping the name of Mr President. This is not the President I know.”
Kokori commended the leadership of NLC and NUPENG for their support.