The Nigeria Labour Congress has accused the Minister of Labour and Employment, Simon Lalong, of allegedly trying to scuttle the implementation of the recent agreement it had with the Federal Government.
The labour movement said the minister was taking sides in the crisis rocking the National Union of Road Transport Workers.
It warned that Nigerians would hold the minister responsible if the situation results in a national industrial crisis.
In a statement signed by the NLC General Secretary, Mr Emmanuel Ugboaja, it said that the government was giving support to the illegal faction of the NURTW and encouraging them to conduct their own delegates conference, both zonally and nationally, to confer legitimacy to their action.
The NLC said, “In a shocking turn of events, the Federal Minister of Labour, Mr Lalong, has thrown a spanner in the wheel of the implementation of the labour-federal government agreement by his unmasked partiality in handling a critical item in the agreement, which is the apparent government meddling in trade union matters by siding with people who had illegally seized the National Union of Road Transport Workers headquarters with police support.”
It said the illegal group was now being encouraged to conduct its own delegates’ conference, both zonally and nationally, to confer legitimacy on their action, adding that such acts “not only constitute interference in the internal affairs of a union, in violation of ILO Conventions 87 and 98 but also represents a clear attempt to sabotage the recently ratified agreement between the labour movement and the Federal Government.”
The NLC added that it was unthinkable that a Federal Minister of Labour, “tasked with safeguarding the rights and interests of diverse stakeholders in our industrial relations landscape, would opt to take actions that could undermine the very foundations of our collective engagement.”
“The minister’s decision, which is clearly morally reprehensible and legally untenable, marks a disheartening departure from the expected standards of conduct within the nation’s industrial relations sphere.
“Despite initial assurances from the minister regarding the illegal occupation of the NURTW’s national headquarters, the democratically elected leadership, led by Comrade Tajudeen Baruwa, has not been reinstated,” it said.
In addition, the NLC said it was clear that the Federal Government never negotiated in good faith and, consequently, was never genuinely committed to honouring the terms of the October 2, 2023 agreement.
“This serves to affirm our earlier apprehension that the state was maneuvering to orchestrate a coup d’état against the democratically elected NURTW leadership, potentially alluding to the support of the government, as suggested by Minister Lalong’s actions and statements.
“There is no doubt, both to us and the Nigerian public, about the government’s intentions regarding the implementation of the October 2, 2023 agreement.
“It is evident that akin to the NURTW issue, the execution of other facets of the agreement may be jeopardised. Therefore, we take heed of Minister Lalong’s actions, which flagrantly violate an accord responsibly endorsed by all involved parties,” the labour union said.
It further alleged that the NURTW leadership crisis was engineered by the Federal Government through the police, who, according to it, aided members of the Lagos Lands, Parks and Garages Commission in Lagos State, not the NURTW, to forcefully occupy the union’s headquarters in Abuja.
The NLC insisted that Baruwa’s leadership was democratically elected in strict adherence to union statutes, the national laws, and the International Labour Organisation’s conventions.