NLC Accuses National Record, Publisher of Slander, Libel, Extortion

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  • I thought Comrade Ugboaja has changed his habit of false narratives – Publisher

THE Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has accused the publisher of online newspaper, National Record, Mr Iduh L. Onah, of “malicious slander and libellous publications against its leadership using the platform of the online publication.

Comrade Emma Ugboaja, NLC’s General Secretary

The NLC, in a press release dated December 30, 2021, a copy of which was made available to National Record late Friday night, said from the news reports published by the online medium about NLC, Mr Onah “clearly has an axe to grind” with Nigeria’s foremost labour centre.

According to Comrade Emmanuel Ugboaja, the General Secretary of NLC, who signed the press release entitled: “Exposing and Debunking a Pattern of Malicious Slander and Libellous Publications Against the Leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress,” the perception that Mr Onah has an axe to grind with the NLC is informed by two facts available to the NLC.

The first fact, Comrade Ugboaja said, is that the publisher was a former staff of NLC, “employed as an intermediate staff under the administration of Comrade Abdulwahed Omar” but whose “appointment was terminated for unethical conduct” “[a]fter a few months in the employment of the Congress.”

The second fact for the alleged “malicious slander and libellous publications…” by Mr Onah, Ugboaja said, is that the “Congress President, a few years after he assumed office” turned down “a request to Congress for the payment of what he described as outstanding termination benefits” which, according to Ugboaja, “could not be substantiated.”

Ugboaja said: “Mr. Lawrence Iduh Onah was a former employee of the NLC. He was employed as an intermediate staff under the administration of Comrade Abdulwahed Omar. After a few months in the employment of the Congress and still within the tenure in office of Comrade Omar, Mr. Lawrence Iduh Onah’s appointment was terminated for unethical conduct.

“A few years after Congress President assumed office, Mr. Lawrence Iduh Onah made a request to Congress for the payment of what he described as outstanding termination benefits. Upon inquiry from the records of the Congress, it was discovered that no such benefits existed. The Congress went on to inform him that his claims could not be substantiated.

“Since this incident, Mr. Lawrence Iduh Onah appear [sic] to have pulled off the gloves and has embarked on a strident campaign of calumny and mischief against the current leadership of the Congress using the National Record which he oversees to mint and spew malicious and libellous falsehood. There is no doubt that his current tirades are all aimed at tarnishing the image of the Congress and get even with the leadership of the Congress.”

The NLC General Secretary listed some stories which he said were a result of grudges borne by the publisher of the online newspaper and interpreting how the said reports were misrepresentations of the realities on ground.

Ugboaja said the premises on which National Record’s reports were seen by the NLC as “Malicious Slander and Libel” include the fact that the publisher “is an aggrieved former staff of the Congress who by the nature of his exit from the services of the Congress and his unfulfilled quest to extort unsubstantiated termination benefits from the Congress believes he has an axe to grind with the Congress thus the current resort to mudslinging, malicious slander and consistent sleuth of libellous publications against the national leadership and officers of Nigeria Labour Congress.”

Ugboaja further noted that the publisher, “[d]espite being privy to our official communication channel which is [email protected] and despite our open-door policy to journalists and promotion of press freedom including retaining Mr. Lawrence Onah Iduh in our media list serve,[sic] despite his misdemeanours and betrayal of journalism ethics, the publishers of National Record continue to evade seeking our opinion on their libellous publications before going public. The claims by Mr. Iduh Onah that he had tried in the past to reach Congress leadership by telephone are not only patently false but an exercise in gross mischief. The Glo number he claimed to use in trying to reach Congress President only exists in the figment of his imagination.

“From the foregoing especially given established cases of malicious reporting, it is clear that even when Mr. Iduh Onah is availed the facts of a matter particularly where it concerns Congress and its leadership, he would still find a way to twist such in order to present Congress in the worst light possible.

“Mr. Lawrence Iduh Onah through the libellous stories and sweeping false conclusions he publishes has hardly ever named his sources thus putting him and the National Record under the red lights of “yellow journalism”. We are amiss why he continues to refuse to uncover the identity of the sources of his concocted stories if he believes his news are [sic] authentic.

“Mr. Lawrence Iduh Onah and his National Record have failed to give the official position of the Congress on some of his libellous publications the same prominence and mention he gives to his coterie of falsehood, half-truths and slander against the leadership of the Congress.”

Ugboaja concluded the 8-page press release stating that the NLC is “consulting with our lawyers to take legal action on established instances of libellous content against the NLC by the National Record and its Editor-in-Chief, Mr. Lawrence Onah Iduh.”

I thought Comrade Ugboaja has changed his habit of false narratives – Onah

In his response to the allegations levelled against him and the National Record, Mr Onah, while stating that the publication stands by the validity of all the stories published on the online platform, said he is “not at all surprised at the level of ease and freedom with which Comrade Emma Ugboaja lies.”

According to Mr Onah, Ugboaja lied right from his first to the last allegation and wondered why he or the NLC waited so long to castigate stories some of which have been published months or weeks ago.

According to the publisher, he is at a loss that Comrade Ugboaja, “who is a lawyer chose to speak like a carpenter” when he alleged that the publisher of National Record was employed as an “intermediate staff” and that his (Onah’s) “appointment was terminated for unethical conduct.”

“I am not at all surprised at the level of ease and freedom with which Comrade Ugboaja lies; no, not again. He ought to come to terms with reality and he should, as a lawyer, speak like a lawyer and not a carpenter. And when you read his press release, his intent is merely to belittle me. That doesn’t bother me.

“One, he said I was employed as an intermediate staff. No, I was employed as a principal staff, as an Assistant General Secretary; but of course, I do not see anything derogatory being an intermediate staff. I was interviewed along with him and another person who is also still in the Congress. Shortly after my employment, I was made the Head of the Department of Information (Ag), a position I held until my appointment was illegally terminated on a dubious phrase that “your services were no longer required.” The records are there. Ugboaja is the General Secretary of NLC, my file is still in the NLC; I challenge him to publish every detail in my file.

“Ugboaja knows the real reasons why my appointment was terminated from the NLC. The basic truth is that I refused his (Ugboaja’s) overtures to be recruited in his quest to remove the then General Secretary, Comrade John Odah, through whom all of us who interviewed the same; Ugboaja, Echezona and me; came to the NLC

“After my illegal sack, I went to the National Industrial Court (NIC) in Abuja to claim damages for the illegal termination. The case was presided over by the then President of the NIC, His Lordship, the Honourable Justice B. A. Adejumo, now in retirement. After over a year in court, Justice Adejumo delivered judgement in my favour on 28th February, 2013.

“Justice Adejumo, in his judgement, severely lampooned the NLC for my illegal sack. He said, among other things, that:

“”What is more, the appointment of the claimant [Onah] herein was summarily determined in flagrant disregard of the cardinal principles of the conditions of service of the claimant as contained in the Constitution of the 1st Defendant [NLC]. The protection of fair hearing afforded the claimant by the 1st defendant’s Constitution was contemptuously jettisoned thus infringing the claimants fundamental right as guaranteed by the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and made part of the conditions of service of the claimant by the 1st defendant’s Constitution. This court cannot and will not encourage a situation whereby the constitution of this country is treated with contempt: it has a sacred duty to protect and promote its observance. It also will not encourage whereby a labour organization will treat its conditions of service with ignominy: this will be laying bad example for other employers of labour. I also agree with the claimant that his feelings have been affected negatively by the actions of the defendants in this case; more so when his appointment was terminated based on the false reason which has the implication of saying he has no useful skill. That is patently the implication of saying a person is sacked due to reorganisation: another name for redundancy. I agree that he is entitled to compensation to assuage this. I also agree that he is entitled to his unpaid salaries and entitlements.”

“I know Comrade Ugboaja very well and I strongly believe that he has never read the judgement as he has strong phobia for text composition and reading,” Mr Onah said.

In responding to the allegation of extortion by Comrade Ugboaja against Mr Onah by making termination claims that could not be substantiated; Mr Onah said Comrade Ugboaja seems to be either in an early stage of Alzheimer’s disease or self-induced amnesia.

“Perhaps Comrade Ugboaja is either in an early stage of Alzheimer’s or in his typical mischievousness of self-induced amnesia. First and foremost, it was not a few years after Comrade Wabba assumed office that I went to the NLC for them to sign my attestation form to access my retirement savings with Trustfund Pensions Ltd, it was in late July, 2020, which was Wabba’s fifth year in office.

“This was what transpired. In 2020, when I clocked 50, according to the Pension Reform Act, I became qualified to access my retirement savings; so I went to Trustfund so that I could process my saving for payment to me. Among the forms given to me was an attestation form to be signed by the NLC. I filled the form and since I was in Labour House, which also houses Trustfund headquarters’ offices, I went to the NLC to request for my pay slip for the last three months and for them to also sign the attestation form.

“I took the attestation form to the General Secretary, Comrade Ugboaja, and he said after looking at it that my year of exit was not 2011 as I had indicated on the form but 2013 when the NIC judgement was delivered. He stated that that was because of the 2 years’ salaries ordered by the court and paid to me, which also contained all my other entitlements. He then directed me to go and cross check very well with the account’s department, which I did after thanking him.

“I went to the HOD Accounts, Comrade Segun Rotimi, and explained to him, just as I also made the request for the payslip, and he asked me to come the following day. The following day, I went back, and Comrade Rotimi assigned a staff of the department who pulled out the records of the NIC-ordered payment, photocopied them and gave them to me. When I went through them, I discovered that the 15 or so per cent pension deduction which the NLC ought to pay along was deducted and that was legibly written by the person who did the calculation. My pension percentage was also not deducted for remittance to the PFA but paid to me.

“When I asked for record of remittances from NLC to Trustfund since I left NLC in May 2011 to May 2013 when Congress paid my court-ordered claim, I saw that the NLC did not remit the deductions they made for the two years and three months, that is, 27 months; that the NIC judgement asked them to pay me. On the basis of this factual record, I went to Comrade Ugboaja, who said I should write a request.

“I wrote the request on August 4, 2020 and submitted it the same day and was assigned to Comrade Ismail Bello, the Deputy General Secretary in charge of Administration, and he asked me to come back sometime that week. When I went back, Comrade Bello again took me to Ugboaja’s office. There, Ugboaja started saying the NLC does not owe me anything, that they have paid me what the court said they should pay. In spite of whatever he said, I asked him to look at the merit of the memo that I wrote and cross check with the payment records but he again asked Comrade Bello to sort it out.

“To summarise the whole matter, Bello said they had agreed to pay and that I should first and foremost pay back the percentage paid to me, which I said I will do but that I should be availed the bank account number into which to make the payment. He asked me to go to Comrade Rotimi to get it, but Rotimi said he will not give it to me unless Bello officially asked him. I went to Bello again and he said he will do so but that I should go and call him later as he was busy. I left.

“We were on this until that year ended. In fact, at a point, I went and verbally complained to Comrade Wabba and he said he was going to find out what transpired. By the end of March 2021, when there was still no headway on the matter, I decided to abandon it until after 2023 delegates’ conference of NLC.”

Mr Onah, who said he will after the holidays make a comprehensive response to the multiple allegations which included unethical journalism practice, also said he was surprised that as a lawyer who seem to be showing off his legal knowledge, Comrade Ugboaja only ended in displaying deep-seated ignorance on “journalism matters as if he didn’t take any course on press or media law.” Onah also said even in matters of NLC’s organisational structure, the NLC General Secretary manifested brazen shallowness in comprehending the office he occupies.

“Comrade Ugboaja said that National Record alleged in its report that the NLC’s General Secretary has been turned to an “errand boy” to the president of NLC. National Record never made any such assertion; it is in Ugboaja’s infertile imagination. Perhaps, in trying to malign National Record and its publisher, he inadvertently invented another pseudonym for the office he had done everything to down grade due to his avaricious ambition to be General Secretary.

“Perhaps Ugboaja was trying to refer to the Boxing Day report when Congress staff, who had confided in National Record that they had not been paid before Christmas, said the office of the General Secretary had been reduced to that of a clerk as the occupier of the office has no approval powers beyond ten thousand naira. He should respond to the substantive issues raised in our reports and not this press release that is filled with forced errors and blunders,” Onah said.

He added that when he entered the NLC and for the two years he spent as a principal staff of Congress, the General Secretary of NLC lived up to the expectation envisioned in the Constitution of the NLC which states that the GS [General Secretary] is the Chief Executive Officer of the Congress.

“I spent only two years in the NLC and that two years hugely impacted on me in a way that I am now trying to dedicate my time to exclusively focus on reporting what transpires in labour circles and how workers fare in general. Ugboaja has been in NLC since then, as I learnt he was a General Secretary of an industrial union before he joined NLC. But the way he had and is still destroying the basic foundation of NLC and the unions is tragic. He should go and look at the Constitution of the NLC before he joined NLC in 2009 and the current NLC Constitution.

“He should try to also find out why and how the founding fathers of NLC envisioned the office he now occupies; he should also find out the logic behind the political philosophy of that office? It is only in doing that that Ugboaja will know the degree of damage he has caused the labour movement, not just the NLC,” Onah said.

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