Veteran Labour leader, Chief Frank Ovie Kokori, and the Nigeria Labour Congress have reacted to the position of the Presidency on the initial appointment of Kokori as the Chairman of the board of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund.
The Presidency in a statement on Sunday by the Special Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, said Kokori was only appointed as Chairman of the board of Michael Imoudu Institute for Labour Studies in Ilorin, Kwara State and not the NSITF.
But Kokori and the NLC faulted that position on Sunday.
Kokori said after he heard of the news of his appointment by the then Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, called to congratulate him.
Kokori said: “I first heard about the appointment through an online medium.
“Within two hours, Ngige called to congratulate me.
“Not long after, Chief Emeka Wogu, the immediate past Minister of Labour and Employment, also called to congratulate me.
“Within that week, Ngige invited me to a dinner.
“I went with my son to the dinner.
“We discussed the inauguration and other things concerning the fund.
“When President Buhari returned, Ngige called me to say now that the President has come back, let me get clearance from him because you know that the man that appointed you was acting president.
“That took about three weeks.
“After that, he called to say that the President said he should inaugurate me.
“It was from then on the cabal in the Presidency took over because they are afraid that I am going to unearth a lot of things that have been going on.
“I can tell you that they have spent over N2 billion to ensure that I am not inaugurated chairman of the board.
“On June 12, 2018, I asked President Buhari why I was not inaugurated, he asked one of his aides, one Seriki, to see to it that I was inaugurated as chairman of the board.
“But the cabal refused to have me inaugurated.
“Look, if at the beginning I was named chairman of the Governing Council of Michael Imoudu National Institute of Labour Studies, I would gladly accept.
“But I was appointed chairman of the NSITF board by the then acting President, Yemi Osinbajo.
“But the cabal in the Presidency, including one contractor of NNDC in Delta, another of my friend and a leading figure in the June 12, 1993 struggle (names withheld), are involved in the conspiracy to stop me from being inaugurated.”
Reacting to the position of the Presidency, the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Ayuba Wabba, said the clarification from Adesina was very unfortunate since it was coming rather too late.
Wabba said: “I think they are being economical with the truth.
“You can recall that on March 17, through the Nigeria Television Authority, it was announced that Kokori has been replaced as NSITF board chairman and named as Chairman of the Michael Imoudu Labour institute Governing Board.
“You cannot replace somebody you have not appointed in the first place.
“This matter was on the table for over two years.
“We have written several letters for him to be inaugurated, nobody said he was never appointed.
“If they are afraid of Kokori’s integrity, they should come out clean.
“In fact, I am aware that Ngige met Kokori over four times on the issue of inauguration.
“In July last year, a committee was actually set up to inaugurate the board.
“It was at that point that Ngige wrote a memo to the President that with Kokori as the chairman, labour would have three persons on the board, which they are not comfortable to with.
“Ngige actually sent the name of Kokori to the Department of State Services for screening ahead of the inauguration.
“But if you said because Kokori is a man of integrity and cannot be bent, it is alright.
“We thought that a government that is fighting corruption should have Kokori on board.
“It is not also correct that the fund is 100 per cent government.
“It is false because employers contribute to the fund for the social security of workers.
“That is why it is a tripartite institution.”
On whether the NLC nominated Chief Kokori, Wabba said: “No, we never nominated Kokori.
“Let me tell you, I have repeated this severally, our two nominees were the Treasurer and the Trustee.
“Kokori was nominated on his personal merit to the Presidential Committee headed by the Vice President that nominated people into over 500 boards.
“Through that process, Ngige was appointed as Chairman of National Directorate of Employment.
“It was the same Ngige that told us that Kokori has been appointed into the board of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund.
“He is not our nominee but we thought that having nominated him from the rank and file of labour, we should also find out why they want to delay the inauguration of the Board.
“All the other 500 boards have been inaugurated.
“All of the appointments were done the same time.
“In fact, the three Executive Directors and Managing Director were appointed through the same process.
“We have said it several times that we were not even aware that he was appointed but having appointed him, they can’t treat him shabbily because he is from labour.”