… As Kokori weeps over delisting of name from Board
OBIORA IFOH, Abuja
There was commotion at the Ministry of Labour Thursday morning as members of the Labour movement stormed the Ministry Labour and Employment to put pressure on the Minister to inaugurate the new board of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSTIF).
As at 9.30 am, NLC President, Ayuba Wabba led some of his members to storm the conference hall of the Ministry of Labour accompanying the chairman of the NSITF, Frank Kokori.
The Labour movement is insisting that the NSITIF board be inuagurated with Kokori as the chairman.
However, a press statement from the Ministry of Labour said that Mr. Kokori has been removed and replaced by Mr Austin Enajemo-Isire.
In the statement issued by Assistant Director of Press, Rhoda Ishaku Iliya, said, ” President Muhammadu Buhari, has approved the appointment of members of the board of the NSITF a parastatal under the supervision of the Federal ministry of Labour and Employment.
It said the Board is headed by Mr Austin Enajemo-Isire, a Chartered Accountant, professional Insurance Executive and Banker.
Board members are Olawale, Osuolale Timothy, Dr. Mohammed, J. YinusaComrade Waheed Adewale Adeyanju, Comrade Ibrahim Khaleel, Ifeoma Anyanwutaku,Dutse, Umma Aminu (Mrs.),Jasper Azutalam, Tijani Suleiman, Mrs. Kemi Nelson,
Others include Ade Bayo Somefun (Member/Managing Director & Chief Executive)and Mrs Ijeoma Orji Okoronkwo (Board Secretary).
The statement also said that President Buhari has aapproved the appointment of Comrade Ovie Kokori as the new Chairman of the Michael Imoudu National Institute for Labour Studies (MINILS), Ilorin, Kwara State.
According to the statement both appointments are with immediate effect.But the labour movement immediately kicked against the sudden removal of Mr. Kokori as chairman of the NSITF and mobilized its members to storm the venue of inauguration to stop it.
The workers who were chanting solidarity song said the inauguration of the board cannot take place without Kokori.
The inauguration was scheduled to hold by 10.30 am but the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige failed to show up by 12.30 pm.
Members of board and NLC leaders waited for hours till an official of the ministry came to announce to the audience that the event has been postponed.The official said the postponement was due to the absence of some of the members of the board.
Addressing the journalists shortly after the event was put off, Wabba said that labour movement will not accept the move to remove Kokori from the NSITF board.He said that NLC and its labour allies will insist that the affairs of the NSITF is managed in a transparent manner.
Wabba said, “The board was supposed to be inaugurated today, but unfortunately, that is not to be. The same excuse that they have been given in the last three and half years still came up. First, the fund we are taking about is workers money. It is money contributed by employers for the social security cover of their workers. It is because of that issue that NLC has two members and NECA has two members. Even the Ministry of labour has only one member on the board. We have been so passionate about this because of what has happened in the past and we must bring that to an end. That is why we say our eyes will be where our resources is. But for three and half years, many reasons have been used.
“The first was that the appointment was made by the Acting President and that he needed to revalidate it from the President which he did. The second reason was that there has been corruption in the place and that he needed to clean it up and we said there was no problem because we are against corruption. After cleaning the place, he said he needed to implement the report and we said go ahead and do that. After implementing the report, he said he needed two weeks and at every opportunity, we have raised the issue that it is unfair for him to run the place like a sole administrator. It is our money and that is why he did not want to inaugurate the place. He has come up with many theories. Now that the President has asked him to inaugurate the place, he is no where to be found. Can he be afraid of his constituency? We are his constituency, workers, employers and government are his main constituency and all of us are here. We asked him, who is not here and he could not tell us. That is unfair, and unjust and as workers, we will always demand for our right and this is our right.
“Accountability is what we stand for and we must demand for it. Whatever we do, we will brief our organs because it is our money. Wherever he wants to inaugurate this board, we will be there. But if he inaugurate it in secret, we will go to his house and protest and also protest to the Presidency because this is unfair and unjust. This is a government that believe in accountability and transparency.
“The law is very specific on this. In constituting the board, the law says that NLC shall be consulted and that has not taken place and we want to ensure that our funds are safe inview of what has happened in the recent past when people feasted on our money. We are also aware of what has happened that he does not want to inaugurate the Board.
We are demanding for accountability and transparency. If he does go to inaugurate the board in a secret place, it then mean that he has something to hide which Nigerians needs to know. That is why we are here in large number. The stake of this economy is in NUPENG. If somebody that is declared prisoner of conscience by world renowned leaders is so appointed by the President, Ngige cannot not come here and change it or manipulate the process. We will continue this process and engagement because we cannot sleep on our right. We will continue to engage the process and ensure that the right thing is done.”
Chief Frank Kokori who was overwhemed with emotions said, “Today, I am very emotional and want to cry. I want to weep for this country. I am proud of you, my comrades. I have done my best for this country. When nobody raised their voice against the military, I came out against the military to fight for freedom and democracy of Nigeria. I spent four good years in one of the worst prisons in the world, in Bama prison and in solitary confinement. In 1997, I was declared a prisoner of war by Pope John Paul. The same year, the Madibba, Nelson Mandela also declared me a notable world prisoner of conscience. I stood for this country and in all my years of service, there were temptations to take some of the biggest bribe. But I stood my ground for democracy and 20 years into the same democracy, Comrade Kokori is being oppressed by somebody like Ngige. What is the reason?
“The reason is because Frank Kokori is regarded as a man of integrity, a man of honour and a transparent Nigerian. This is a government that talks of integrity and you allowed a man like Ngige to humiliate me for two years after my appointment. Yesterday, they now said I should go to Micheal Imoudu. If they had given me Micheal Imoudu when I retired from NUPENG, I should have accepted. Why should I subject myself to trauma for two years and you promised that the appointment remains and congratulated me for more than five times. The President assured me during the last June 12 exercise that they will not do anything to my appointment.
“I feel Ngige is on his own, dropping the name of the President, not the President I know and who assured me that he will not change my name. I am thankful to the Nigeria labour movement and the great union called the National Union of Petroleum and Natural gas. I spent the whole of my youthful life to build this union as a fighting machine. I thank you all for your support and may God bless you all.”
NUPENG president, Williams Akporeha also said, “Somebody is sitting down somewhere and turning the entire country around. This is an issue that NUPENG has decided to take on. We will be calling our National Executive Council meeting immediately after the holidays and any decision that the NEC takes, will be implemented to the later. However, let me say that any attempt by the Minister to go behind and secretly inaugurate any board that does not have Comrade Frank Kokori as Chairman will be resisted by NUPENG and the entire Nigerian workers. We are in touch with the Presidency on this issue and our contact there informed us that the name of Comrade Kokori is still on their list as NSITF Chairman. So, where is this change coming from. That is why we are shocked today.”
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