You can’t stop us – Ajaero
Stories by Moses John
The crisis rocking the Labour movement in Nigeria may have assumed a different dimension, as the duo of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) have ask the federal government not to give recognition to the United Labour Congress. (ULC)
The unions wrote to the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, urging him not to grant the request by ULC for registration as the third labour centre in Nigeria.
In a swift reaction, ULC said the unions and the Ministry of Labour which is saddled with the responsibility of registering trade unions and centers can’t deny them their fundamental human right as provided by the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The letter titled: Need To Avert Anarchy in the Industrial Relations System in the Country: Mushroom/Shell Trade Unions, dated January 19, 2017 and addressed to the minister was signed by Comrades Ayuba Wabba of NLC and Bobboi Kaigama of TUC.
It read in part: “We also trust that your officers will do the right thing by denying registration of the phantom unions that our erstwhile colleagues are promoting”.
The duo of Wabba and Kaigama said having failed in their bid to lead the NLC following the successful conduct of the rescheduled election at the 10th Delegates Conference of the congress in March, 2015, the promoters have been making concerted efforts to destabilize the industrial relations scene in the country.
According to the letter, “This started with the effort to fractionalise the NLC which failed after almost two years of trying. In their desperation, they have now purported to float a new trade union centre with the name United Labour Congress of Nigeria. In the last couple of months, they have collected forms for the registration of dozens of shell trade unions without membership.
“The project is being coordinated by a former trade unionist whose chamber is coordinating the efforts to register these mushroom unions. The former unionists, now a politician, had in the past failed in her bid to be appointed general secretary of the NLC.
To back their claims, they cited the Trade Union Act CAP T14, LFN, 2004, Section 3(2) which provides thus: “But no trade union shall be registered to represent workers or employers in a place where there already exist a trade union.
“In Part 1, Section 2, which is very explicit that unregistered trade unions and federations are prohibited from functioning. Under this section a federation of trade unions shall not come into existence until it is registered.
“Under the 2005 Amendment, the Section 34 of the Principal Act Amendment, it was also explicitly stated that a federation of trade unions may be registered if (a) 1. (b) “it is made up of 12 or more trade unions, none of which shall have been a member of another registered federation of trade unions.” Honourable minister sir, by the virtue of this provision all NLC and TUC affiliates cannot jump ship to another federation.
“The promoters of the so called United Labour Congress, which your office had informed us has not been registered has been going about the airwaves and print/social media speaking as a trade union federation, and spreading mis-information and falsehood about the NLC especially, and our two centres in general.”
Meanwhile, President of the ULC, Comrade Joe Ajaero, in response, said the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria takes precedence over any other law that is in contradiction.
He said contrary to the claims by NLC and TUC that ULC is seeking registration of unions already affiliated to them, the unions have never signified interest to be members of NLC according to the new Trade Union Act.
“I challenge the NLC to bring where the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE), filled a form according to the new trade union Act, to be member of NLC either past or currently.
“When the law then says for you to belong to a trade union, you must fill a form sign by officials of that union, the members of NUEE and all other unions seeking registration never fill any form from Ministry of Labour to be members of NLC,” he said.
Ajaero further stated that: “They said we must us be in NLC, and we are saying no, if there is any law like that, of course no. If there is such law, it could have stated that there shall be no other labour centre in Nigeria so it will have an effect, since the existing ones are okay.
“However, where such law is in conflict with the Nigeria constitution, but what you can see is where is says you can form and belong to any union of your choice, and the same provision allow somebody who is in PDP today will wake up tomorrow and declare his membership for APC, where you will also see someone as a Catholic saying he is now a Pentecostal.”
He maintained that what you are seeing there is that officials of Nigeria Civil Service Union (NCSU) and the Association of Senior Civil Servant of Nigeria (ASCSN) are the same people that are given the responsibility to register unions, that is unacceptable to us.
“If the Ministry of Labour should play a principal role, such officials must not belong to any union so they are trying to preserve workers for their own centres that is to say everybody must belong to NLC and TUC that is unacceptable to us.”