The National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas (NUPENG) workers has threatened to call out its members against any attempt by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, to replace its former Secretary General, Chief Frank Kokori, as Chairman of the Board of the National Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF).
NUPENG also urged President Muhammadu Buhari to call the minister to order.
Chief Frank Ovie Kokori was appointed the Chairman of the Board of NSITF three years ago by President Muhammadu Buhari, but the board is yet to be inaugurated by the minister under whose ministry the fund resides. Speaking in Lagos at the weekend, the National President of NUPENG, Williams Akporeha, said under no excuse would the union and other organised unions agree with the minister to substitute Kokori’s name on the board of NSITF.
Akporeha said, “Any inauguration that will not make Kokori the Chairman of NSITF will not be accepted by NUPENG. We view this as a gang up against Kokori and the organised labour. President Buhari, out of his own wisdom, nominated Kokori. So, why will Ngige not want him in NSITF?”
He further said, “From all indications, Chris Ngige is no match with Chief Kokori by any standard. Without fear of contraction, showing solidarity to Chief Kokori this time around cannot be said to be out of place under any guise. He is such a man with intimidating and enviable credentials, known for engendering justice, never compromising oil workers’ rights, and of stainless integrity, purpose and vision throughout his reign as the General Secretary of NUPENG for 17 meritorious years of indelible record, and the entire labour movement benefitted immensely from his effort.”
He added that Kokori’s sacrifice should not be paid back this way, stressing that, “There would have been no democracy under which an Ngige became a state governor, Senator of the Federal Republic and Minister of Labour and Employment where he is currently playing god.”
He also said Kokori should be celebrated at a time like this because of his role in the struggle for democracy which made the International Labour Organisation (ILO), Amnesty International (AI) and labour federations across the globe declare him prisoner of conscience between August, 1994, and June, 1998.
It would be recalled that Kokori was in solitary confinement for four years in the infamous Bama Prison. He was dumped there with no charges preferred against him by the then military regime. He noted that in solidarity with other labour unions, NUPENG would call out its members to join a nationwide protest today calling for the inauguration of the NSITF board with Chief Kokori as chairman.
He said, “Kokori has a lot to offer Nigeria and he should be given all the support to serve this country.”