The executives of the Nigerian Labour Congress has disgraced workers nationwide by its inability to conduct a free and fair election to pick new national executives for the union. The new date for the election is now March 12
| By Anayo Ezugwu | Mar. 2, 2015 @ 01:00 GMT |
AFTER the show of shame that followed the 11th National Delegates’ Conference of the Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC, on February 12, meant to elect new national executive, the leadership of the union has re-scheduled the aborted election for March 12. The union arrived at the date after meeting for more than 10 hours behind closed doors. The meeting was mediated by Adams Oshiomhole, Edo State governor, Hassan Sunmunu and Ali Ciroma, all former labour leaders of the union.
According to Oshiomhole, the irregularities in the ballot papers, which led to inconclusive election, was never an attempt by any candidate to manipulate the polls. The meeting also agreed that the union’s National Executive Council will remain in acting capacity.
The botched election organised by the credentials committee of the NLC was disrupted, as candidates had accused the committee of compromising the process, citing lack of diligence, which they said led to the irregularities. The inability of the union to conduct its election has been condemned by Nigerians amidst accusations and counter-accusations by union members as to what caused the crisis that led to postponing the election.
Femi Falana, human rights lawyer expressed concern over the crisis that marred the election and called on the leaders of the labour union in the country to urgently investigate and unravel the underlying issues that led to the disruption of the elections of the NLC.
“As counsel to the Congress, I was invited to the conference. To the embarrassment of the country the conference was violently disrupted by hired thugs who carted away the ballot papers and other voting materials. Thus, the conference was abruptly disrupted, while the election of the national officers of the Congress was postponed indefinitely. Coming so soon after the simulated postponement of the nation’s general election, the failure of the Congress to conduct its election has further exposed the country to ridicule before the international community. The last time that the Congress witnessed a similar disruption of its election was at Benin, Edo state, in February, 1984, when the Ibrahim Babangida junta instigated an imaginary fictionalisation which led to the dissolution of the structures of the Congress,” he said.
Issa Aremu, former vice-president of the union, blamed the electoral committee appointed to oversee the election for the failed process. Speaking on a television programme in Lagos, Aremu said: “The fact remains that the botched election never had anything to do with any political party, but due to casualisation rules of NLC. It was simply because the committee in charge of the election refused to follow due process, by allowing new candidates to contest few hours to the election. In that case, ballot papers had to be reprinted and this led to a lot of confusions that made somebody like me to stay out of the election, despite the fact that I’m a contestant,” he said.
Emmanuel Nted, president-general, the Maritime Workers’ Union of Nigeria, MWUN, described the circumstances that led to the botched NLC election as unacceptable. He demanded a thorough investigation into the alleged printing of multiple ballot papers with different serial numbers among others. He insisted that all those that directly and indirectly caused the ballot papers problems must be severely punished to serve as a deterrent to others.
“We call for thorough investigation into this matter. Those responsible for the printing of those ballot papers must not go unpunished. They should be brought to book and they must face severe sanctions. If they are secretariat staff, they should be dismissed and prosecuted. And if they are labour leaders, they should be expelled from NLC for giving labour a bad name. We are supposed to be the watchdog to the society, fighting for the oppressed and upholding truth and justice,” he said.
Nevertheless, the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, on Tuesday, February 17, denied allegations that the union was involved in the manipulation of ballot papers during the failed Nigeria Labour Congress election. Isaac Aberare, general secretary, NUPENG, alleged that Ayuba Wabba, President, MHUN, who was one of the NLC candidates, had shown desperation to hold the office before the election.
According to him, the allegation made against NUPENG and NUEE was a ploy to score a cheap political point and distract attention from his desperation to become the president of NLC at all costs. “The credentials committee was constituted to receive complaints or petition from affiliate unions regarding allocation of delegates to the 11th Delegates Conference of the congress. The committee met in Lagos, and Abuja, and addressed all the complaints brought before it. The committee also agreed on the design of the ballot papers,” he said.
Aberare explained that the duplication of names of some contestants in the ballot papers booklet could not have been carried out by its members because they were not involved in the processes that led to the printing of the election materials. “The selection of the printer, award of contract and the payment for the job were done by the secretariat of the congress, while the printing and collation of the ballot papers and stapling them in a booklet form were handled by the printer and his staff. The members of the credentials committee were not involved in any way. We hereby reject and vehemently deny the allegation in its entirety. NUPENG representative in the committee was not involved in the selection of printer, award of contract to print the ballot papers and payment for the job.”
This denial followed accusations by Wabba that two unidentified members of the Credentials Committee of NUPENG and National Union of Electricity Employees were involved in the manipulation of ballot papers. But the secretary general of NUPENG alleged that Wabba, a treasurer of the NLC, stood to gain more from the duplication of names, adding that he signed the cheque for the printing of the ballot papers. He explained that the members of the committee were not allowed to officiate during the voting by Issa Faggae, chairman of the committee.