By Coker Onita
Nigeria’s Labour and Employment Minister, Senator (Dr.) Chris Ngige can simply be described as a spoiler and one will not be wrong. His approach to labour issues is not only nauseating, it is unprogressive, to say the least. His style seems to put the nation in reverse gear!
Even though l am not a labour analyst and therefore lays no claim to any proficiency in labour negotiations, l feel disturbed about Ngige’s style and carriage. Call him a good dribbler and hard negotiator, but he performs his job with no milk of human kindness!!
The recent Judicial Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) and Parliamentary Staff Association of Nigeria (PASAN) strike brought into fore the haughtiness of Dr. Chris Ngige. lt also brought his unusual arrogance, pomposity, and high-handedness.
Or how else do we describe Ngige’s attitude toward JUSUN and PASAN officials after he had summoned them to a meeting in his office? The officials were instructed to gather in his Conference Room for a crucial meeting with the minister at 3.00 pm prompt on Tuesday, April 19, 2021. Labour officials coming from far and near started gathering immediately afternoon, only to wait for almost three hours without a word from the minister. And when JUSUN and PASAN officials decided to depart in anger, they broke into solidarity songs. lt was at that time that the minister heard them. He was reported to have come out of his office, roared back in anger that they could go away if they so wished.
At a media interview on Channels Television this Wednesday, an official of JUSUN gave an eyewitness account, berating the minister for his bad temper and unbecoming attitude.
But this is not the first time Dr. Ngige would show his evasive, arrogant style. During the period of the doctors’ strike a couple of weeks ago, he came on national television to berate his doctor colleagues, telling them that if they refused to tow his line of action or proved difficult, he would have no choice other than to deal with them. “We will deal with them by the laws of no work, no pay,” he said.
The doctors were quick to remind him that all they wanted was their arrears of pay for work already done. After much pressure, Ngige succumbed.
lt was for the same style that ASUU went on strike for close to one year under his watch. The university teachers were asking the government to implement their side of the negotiations earlier freely agreed upon. Just wondered why such negotiations should last for an entire university calendar year. Nigerians started asking whether education was still a priority of this government. After all, most of their children had traveled abroad where life is more stable, progressive, and predictable.
Senator Ngige must find ways and means of making negotiations with labour unions and their allies less cumbersome, less convoluted, difficult, and less intricate. To me, it amounts to nothingness if negotiations drag on almost forever.
For example, why wait till the last minute before commencing action on a matter the Union has given the notice to go on strike. The Labour Minister waits till the deadline expires before inviting relevant agencies and officials to the negotiation table thereby throwing the entire nation into panic mode.
Unnecessary footdragging and avoidable bureaucratic red-tapism cannot be the hallmark of a good labour minister. lt amounts to sheer wickedness and lack of concern for the feelings of ordinary Nigerians when negotiations that ought to last for a few days or weeks drag into months and sometimes into years. So many productive man-hours are lost and the nation is worse for it.
Let’s call a spade it’s the real name: Labour and Employment Minister, Dr. Chris Ngige, may be perceived by his employers as a good government negotiator but he’s doing more harm to this economy if he continues with his difficult, arrogant style.
Negotiations could still be conducted in atmospheres of mutual respect, amity, conviviality, friendliness, and with milk of human kindness.