The incumbent Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Christopher Ngige is not new in the Nigerian political cycle. The former governor of Anambra State was shot into the limelight when in 2003 he was abducted right inside Government House, Akwa by persons said to be his political God-fathers.
Described as a civilian coup d’etat, the action later drew condemnation but within and outside Nigeria. The governor was later restored to his office, and all, as it often said, is now history. He did not complete his tenure but has enjoyed the privilege of being elected as a senator. The Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Mr Ngige played a key role in the formation of the All Progressive Congress (APC) and as a way of “compensation” him, he was given the enviable position of Minister. A trained medical doctor, it is doubtful if anyone could raise the issue with his competence. However, not few Nigerians have questioned the rationale behind placing the former senator in such a sensitive ministry that deals with labour issues. It is argued that a major requirement for an occupant of the ministry is tact and diplomacy, qualities Ngige do not possess.
It is therefore no gainsaying the fact that some labour issues that could ordinarily have been resolved on a roundtable were allowed to fester, no thanks to the jackboot approach by the Minister. For instance, in the middle of strike action by resident doctors under the auspices of the National Association of Residents Doctors (NARD), the Minister was quoted to have said: “Next week I’ll escalate this issue because reconciliation has failed”. I won’t meet them anymore because I have other things to do. I did two conciliations yesterday. Am I going to be wasting my time with them? I have other tools within the labour laws and I will do it. I invoked Section 43 of the labour laws this afternoon. I have communicated it to NARD.
‘’They will not receive money for the period they are on strike and it will never count as a period of pensionable position in their career. Even the International Labour Organisation supports it because they render essential services.
‘’They are not supposed to go on strike without notifying me 15 days before the day of the strike. As we speak, I have not received any notification that is why I am invoking Section 43 of the Labour Act on withdrawal of services, right to strike and the right to protect the employer and their patients.
“Things will happen next week. Let them wait because they are taking the government for a ride and it is wrong. They are playing with their lives. “My children are medical doctors and I have warned them not to be part of this nonsense strike.”
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