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NLC leadership crisis deepens as Wabba, Aremu trade barbs

The post-election crisis that engulfed the national leadership of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) appears to have taken a turn for the worse, as the factional President, Ayuba Wabba, declared his arch rivals, Joe Ajaero and Issa Aremu “serial blackmailers” and “criminal impersonators.”

Mr. Wabba, who was sworn in as the new President of the central labour movement at the end of the rescheduled March 14, 2015 election, said despite several attempts the two aggrieved members and their followers have continued to reject reconciliation moves by the NLC leadership.

Mr. Wabba, who was the Chairman of the Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria (MHWUN), was declared winner of the rescheduled poll over his opponent and National Secretary of the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE), Joe Ajaero.

The election was rescheduled after the previous exercise, held on February 12, ended in a stalemate following allegations of manipulation of the process by the organisers and the incumbent leadership.

Mr. Aremu was contesting for the position of deputy National President.

Shortly after the election result was announced, Mr. Ajaero and his supporters announced their rejection of the entire exercise.

A week later, the Ajaero-led faction made good its threat to form a parallel executive by organising a “special delegates’ conference” that culminated in his emergence as the factional President.

The “election” saw all the candidates that lost in the March 14 elections returned unopposed, including two Deputy Presidents – the National President of the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, Igwe Achese, and General Secretary of the National Union of Textile, Garment and Tailoring Workers of Nigeria, Issa Aremu.

Since then, Messrs. Ajaero and Aremu and their sympathisers have rejected pressures for them to renounce their positions, accusing Mr. Wabba-led faction of stealing its mandate.

But, in a statement on Tuesday, Mr. Wabba drew attention of the public to “the serial impersonation by Comrades Joe Ajaero and Issa Aremu since they both lost their bids to be President and Deputy President, respectively, of NLC at the rescheduled March 14, 2015 elections of Congress.”

“While we had restrained the National Secretariat (of NLC) from publishing a disclaimer in the hope that common sense and sanity will eventually prevail on our comrades to stop this delusion, it has become clear to us and the entire labour movement that Comrades Ajaero and Aremu are determined to continue in their criminal enterprise of impersonation as President and Deputy President of NLC”, Mr. Wabba said in the statement.

He accused Mr. Aremu of issuing series of public statements “purporting to be Deputy President of Congress and on behalf of our revered organisation”, pointing out that such statements constituted an embarrassment to the labour union.

Although Mr. Wabba acknowledged both Messrs. Ajaero and Aremu had the right to issue such statements on any national issue they feel strongly about, on behalf their respective unions that are affiliates of the NLC, he insisted none of them nor any affiliate industrial union and their officers had similar rights, unless expressly mandated.

“All instances, since Comrades Ajaero and Aremu lost their bids to be elected as President and Deputy President, are clear cases of criminal impersonation,” he said.

Congress, he said, recently alerted its international allies – Organisation of African Trade Union Unity (OATUU), International Trade Union Confederation-Africa (ITUC-Africa) and International Labour Organisation (ILO), to discountenance any correspondence from Messrs Ajaero and Aremu purporting to represent the NLC.

Describing Messrs. Ajaero and Aremu’s behaviour as “clear embarrassments, to themselves and the entire labour movement, they said they have refused to approach the law courts to pursue their rights, rather than engaging in “clear cases of obfuscation, blackmail and criminal impersonation.”

When PREMIUM TIMES contacted Mr. Aremu for his reaction, he described Mr. Wabba’s statement as a distraction that did not deserve being taken seriously, saying it was a shame that they allowed some Senators to use them as a tool to discredit them.

While commending the Senate for constituting a committee to review legislators pay in line with the country’s economic realities as well as draw up legislative agenda, Mr. Aremu said this has endeared them to the people as sensitive to the aspirations and concerns of the NLC under “our leadership.”

He promised to work with the lawmakers to evolve a sustainable legislative agenda that would reindustrialize the country, promote productivity and generate wealth and prosperity.

“We hereby warn the public, employers of labour, federal and state governments to beware of sweet-heart unionists and election riggers masquerading as the leaders of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), when indeed they are agents of some sections of government,” Mr. Aremu said.

He said that Mr. Wabba was not speak for the Congress, accusing him of dragging affiliate union members to court over NLC delegates election.

“Ayuba in utter disregard of court process criminally declare legitimate union leaders imposters. He certainly wanted to once again rig the court process as he criminally rigged the failed 11th delegates Conference,” he said.

Mr. Ajaero merely responded with a terse text message. “Who sent the disclaimer,” he had asked. “Is the person an official of NLC? When told the NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, he responded. “He is not the president of NLC. Are you aware that the matter is coming up at the National Industrial Court in Lagos tomorrow?

“Ayuba is not the president of NLC, he is reacting to a call to cut the jumbo pay in the National Assembly apparently in support of the Jumbo pay to the detriment of Nigeria workers whose salaries are owed. He is an agent of the state and can’t speak for the Nigerian workers.”

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