The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has alleged that the Minister of Labour and Employment, Simon Lalong, is hindering the implementation of the agreement it reached with the Federal Government on subsidy removal. The NLC warned that it might suspend further dialogue with the government if Lalong continued to interfere with the affairs of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW).
The NLC urged President Bola Tinubu to call the minister to order if he wanted to maintain industrial peace during his administration.
The NURTW has been embroiled in a leadership crisis, which led to the arrest and prosecution of some of its leaders, including its President, Tajudeen Baruwa, for murder last month. The NLC had demanded the release of the union leaders as part of the 15-point Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) it signed with the government.
However, in a statement issued yesterday by its General Secretary, Emmanuel Ugboaja, the NLC claimed that Lalong was supporting a faction of the NURTW that had illegally occupied the union’s headquarters with police backing. The NLC said that this amounted to a “gross violation of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Conventions 87 and 98” and a “clear attempt to sabotage the recently ratified agreement between Labour and the Federal Government”.
The statement read in part: “It is shocking that the Minister of Labour, Mr Lalong, has thrown a spanner in the wheel of the implementation of the Labour-Federal Government Agreement by his blatant bias 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 NURTW headquarters with police support.
“This group is now being encouraged to conduct its own delegates’ conference, both zonally and nationally, to confer legitimacy to their action.
“This flagrant act not only constitutes a gross violation of the International Labour Organisation (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.
“It is incomprehensible that a 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.
“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. Instead, the minister has chosen to endorse and legitimise this hijacking with state backing. This blatant power grab, subverting legality and moral integrity, is an affront to the principles of democratic governance.
“It is now abundantly 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 suspicion that the state was manoeuvring 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.
“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.”