Ngige Confronts JOHESU Leader over Media Reports
By Modupe Gbadeyanka
Minister of Labour and Employment, Mr Chris Ngige, has expressed shock over media reports credited to the National Chairman of the National Association of Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU), Comrade Biobeleye Joy Josiah, that the Federal Government should be blamed for the union’s on-going strike, accusing the Labour Minister of travelling the day he was supposed to meet with the union.
Mr Ngige, while speaking on Tuesday at the conciliation meeting with JOHESU, which also had the Minister of Health, Prof Isaac Adewole, as well as relevant government agencies in attendance, confronted Comrade Biobeleye over the alleged false media report.
The former Governor of Anambra State noted that as a Minister, he was fully aware of the sanctity of his responsibilities as a servant and argued it was wrong for a servant to be maligned or brutalized for no just cause.
“We are Ministers, we are servants and we are serving you. How can you can you vilify your servant, or start beating him or killing him when there is no offense? No, you can’t-do so. You can’t brutalize me in the media for nothing. Even these ministers here, you can’t brutalize them because they are serving the nation. It is not in the best of fair labour practices. It is unconscionable,” Labour Minister said.
“So, I take your explanations and it is good you explained because the impression you gave in the media is grossly erroneous.
“We invited you to a meeting on Thursday, September 21, 2017, your union failed to turn up and later requested for Friday, September 22, 2017.
“I already had an official engagement at Owerri and the Health Minister also was also involved in a different function,” he added.
Mr Ngige further said that freedom of association and speech should be carefully exercised to avoiding hurting the rights of others.
“Trade unionism, yes, but it has a boundary. Freedom of association and freedom of speech are constitutionally agreed.
They have a limit. You can’t use yours to hurt mine, slandering or libelling anybody can have consequences” he cautioned.
He also pressed for what he called permanent structures for peace in industrial trade unionism through selfless assessment of the extant economic situation in the country through social dialogue and constant negotiation so as to forestall perennial strikes.
“We all know the economy is not in good shape. If there were promises made when oil was selling at 150 dollars per barrel and those promises were not kept, it will not be very reasonable to expect a government that came in while oil is selling at 40 or 50 dollars to pay backlogs. But that is what we are suffering here.
“So, I made it clear to the Resident Doctors, university teachers and am making it clear here. We all have to make sacrifices to make Nigeria great,” Mr Ngige said.