The Nigeria Labor Congress on Sunday said the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, was invoking ethnic sentiment in his bid to keep the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund within his sole proprietorship. In a statement signed by the General Secretary of the NLC, Dr Peter Ozo-Eson, Ngige was accused of bringing the name of Ohanaeze Ndigbo into the NSITF board inauguration crisis, saying his action portrayed an impression that the minister was fighting to hide something. When contacted on the telephone, the Personal Assistant to the minister, Nwachukwu Obidiwe, however said the minister would not respond to the NLC accusation. The statement, which was issued in reaction to a statement credited to the Federal Capital Territory chapter of the pan-Igbo socio-cultural organization, said the NLC was a pan Nigerian organization that had carried out its activities without resort to ethnic or religious coloration. It said, “The issue at stake does not have any tinge of ethnic or religious coloration. We are, therefore, surprised at the recent borrowing of ethnic voices in the defense of the minister of labor and employment. “As sad as this new low by the minister and his hired voice is, we must remind the minister that gone are the days when a public officer will commit an offence or steal public money and then hide under ethnic or religious banner for protection.
“The NLC is a pan-Nigerian organisation with a reputation for conducting itself dispassionately and for speaking truth to power. The NLC is populated by workers from all religious and ethnic orientations and can never play the sectarian or ethnic card. We wish to reiterate our deep respect for Ohanaeze as a pan-Igbo socio-cultural organization. It is, however, unfortunate that somebody in the lower cadre of Ohanaeze leadership could be seduced to misuse his position to achieve the narrow objectives of a politician. We urge the national leadership of Ohanaeze to be wary of such characters who are wont not only to tarnish, but also to destroy the good image that Ohanaeze has built for itself over the years. In a separate reaction to a statement released by Citizens Watch Advocacy Movement, Ozo-Eson told our correspondent that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission’s investigation into allegation of fraud in the NSITF when labor was involved in the running of the fund showed that officials of the Ministry of Labour and Employment looted the fund.