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Minister Ngige Forms Panel To Mediate In Kaduna’s Labour Crisis

Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige
Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige

July 10, (THEWILL) – The Federal Government has inaugurated a 10-man committee to resolve the dispute between the Kaduna State Government and Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC).

It charged the committee to ensure that industrial peace returns to Kaduna.

The committee has 21 days to round off its work and report back to the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment.

A statement by the Deputy Director, Press and Public Relations of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, Charles Akpan, on Saturday, said that the Minister, Senator Chris Ngige, has inaugurated a new committee headed by the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, Dr. Peter Yemira Tarfa, to try and resolve the labour dispute.

He informed the committee of the expectations of President Muhammadu Buhari for the speedy return of industrial harmony to Kaduna State, much more at a time the state is challenged by banditry.

The committee has the Secretary to the Kaduna State Government, Balarabe Lawal, and Deputy National President of NLC, Najim Hashim, as Co-Chairman, while the Director, Trade Union Services and Industrial Relations at the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, Mrs. Omoabi Akpan, will serve as the Secretary.

Speaking at the ceremony, Ngige recalled that the Federal Government had intervened in the strike initiated by the NLC in Kaduna State in May, with the parties signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to restore peace, noting that intervening in the circumstances made the reconstitution of the committee inevitable.

According to him, the committee is expected to resolve all the issues in dispute between the Kaduna State Government and the NLC.

The Minister, who acknowledged that the issues in contention border essentially on trade disputes, gave the committee a timeframe of 21 days to round off and report back.

He charged the expanded committee to resolve the issues holistically and be guided by the 1999 Constitution as amended as well as the Labour Laws of the Federation.

Ngige explained that downsizing or rightsizing of workforce in any organisation, government or private sector, is a redundancy issue, which must be subjected to the principles spelt out in the Trade Disputes Act, Laws of the Federation 2004 Cap L1.

According to Ngige, “The law says in Section 20 (A) that, ‘In the event of redundancy, every employer shall inform the trade unions or representatives of workers concerned of the reasons for or the extent of their anticipated redundancy.’

“Section B equally states that the principles of last in, first out shall be adopted in the discharge of the category of workers affected, subject to all factors of relative merit including skill, ability and any reliability.

“So, in applying this, we must subject it to the relativity of merit, skill, ability and reliability. If somebody has a forged certificate, he should be asked to go because he didn’t merit the job in the first instance.

“If you go to a nursing home and find somebody working in the ward with a Bachelor’s Degree in History, he stands disqualified because he doesn’t have the skill in the first place. He has to go. So, these are the qualifications that must be noted in this principle of last in, first out. It is not absolute. It has exceptions and qualifications.”

The Minister noted that the employer has the right to reduce staff strength of his organisation but is bound by law to negotiate redundancy payment to any discharged worker.

He further stated that there was nothing wrong in Kaduna State Government stopping the expenditure of 96 percent of its earnings on personnel cost in order to save enough for capital projects, but that it should be done within the ambit of the law.

“I expect this committee to turn in a report that will ensure lasting peace in Kaduna State. Mr. President had asked me to inform you of his expectation that peace returns to Kaduna which has been his state of residence as well as home to many retired generals, permanent secretaries, seasoned administrators, amongst others of Northern Nigeria extraction.

“So, I appeal to you to approach this assignment with conciliation at the back of your mind so that we don’t have a repeat of what happened in May. I use this opportunity to appeal to you as the Minister of Labour, father of labour unions and friend of Kaduna State that we should tread the path of peace. With peace, we can make progress, both as government and as a labour union”, Ngige said.

Also speaking, the Kaduna State SSG, Lawal, assured the minister of the state government’s plan for restoration of industrial harmony, adding that Kaduna State was not at war with labour.

In his remarks, the President of NLC, Mr. Ayuba Wabba, assured Ngige of labour’s commitment to the resolutdsQion of the impasse in Kaduna State.