From BONIFACE OKORO, Umuahia:
A South East-based youth group has issued a 48-hour ultimatum to Nigeria’s Labour leader, Ayuba Wabba, and President of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, to apologise to the Minister of Employment, Labour and Productivity, Dr Chris Ngige, for allegedly insulting and causing the Minister national embarrassment or face the wrath of the group.
The Coalition of South East Youth Leaders (COSEYL) is also imploring the Police and other security agencies to arrest Wabba immediately in order to ensure public peace in the country.
In recent weeks, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has been up in arms with Ngige over the appointment and inauguration of the Chairman of the National Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) board.
While NLC, led by Ayuba rooted Chief Frank Kokori to head the NSITF board, Ngige, with Presidential backing, opted for Austin Enajemo-Isire, a seasoned Chartered Accountant, professional Insurance Executive and banker.
When it was clear to Labour that Ngige would not heed its demand to inaugurate Kokori as NSITF chairman, Ayuba rallied workers to protest at Ngige’s private residence in Abuja last week.
Claiming that Ngige attacked the protesters with thugs, Ayuba issued directives to workers to attack the minister wherever they see him. Ayuba also ordered airport workers to withdraw their services when the sight Ngige and equally attack him.
Having received the nod from President Muhammadu Buhari, Ngige went ahead last Monday to inaugurate Enejamo-Isire and Mrs Ijeoma Okonkwo as Board Chairman and Secretary of NSITF respectively.
Since Ayuba issued the directive and order, the federal government has kept mum, prompting COSEYL to warn that no harm should come to the Minister.
In a strongly-worded statement endorsed by COSEYL’s President-General, Chief Goodluck Egwu Ibem, and Secretary-General, Comrade Kanice Igwe, and made available to newsmen in Umuahia yesterday, the group berated Ayubba for accusing Ngige of hiring thugs to attack Nigerian workers.
“If Wabba feels that he is right about his false claims, he is free to go to court. It is only the court that adjudicates in disputes. The labour’s continuous protests constitute lawlessness and a breach of peace. “By his unwarranted actions, Wabba has infringed on the fundamental human rights of Dr. Ngige,” COSEYL fired.
The group described the continuous workers protest as “a gross personal vendetta” against Ngige “who is being attacked simply because he voided the plan” by some top labour leaders to use Kokori to allegedly “loot and liquidate NSIFT,” adding that Ayuba’s claim that he was fighting for workers was false as he was pursuing a personal interest.
The group also condemned the ASUU chief for calling on President Buhari to conduct psychiatric test on his cabinet members to ascertain their mental stability, saying “it is unfortunate that such opprobrious statement will be made by an ASUU President.”
“We call on Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi and Ayuba Wabba to, within 48 hours, apologize to the Honourable Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, or face the wrath of COSEYL” the group said.
COSEYL advised Nigerian workers to stop “the senseless protests” and support Ngige and applauded President Buhari for the choice of Enajemo-Isire and Mrs. Okoronkwo, saying that the duo has the requisite knowledge and experience to revitalize NSITF.