EMPLOYEES of Nigeria’s foremost labour centre, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), have singled out Comrade Ayuba Wabba, the President of NLC, for scotching criticism for not paying them their December salaries before Christmas but had the effrontery to condemn other employers of labour who are guilty of similar offence.
The staff of Congress, as NLC is popularly known, also upbraided Comrade Wabba for holding them to ransom by delaying the implementation of the new N30,000 minimum wage by NLC several months after the Establishment Committee of the NLC strongly recommended immediate implementation early this year.
National Record however gathered that the non-payment of December salaries before Christmas may be due to the payment in November to NLC employees a 13th month salary, which is Christmas bonus. This was said to have been accompanied with a bag of rice and vegetable oil to each staff at the national secretariat while similar gestures were monetised for staff serving at state councils of NLC.
National Record has been flooded with protest calls from staff of Congress after it published on Christmas Day the press release personally signed by Comrade Wabba in which he berated some employers for the non-payment of December salaries to their employees before Christmas.
All those who called admitted to National Record to have received in November the Christmas bonus and the food items but however noted that that has been a longstanding tradition in the NLC which had never stopped them from enjoying December pay before Christmas Day.
“Usually, we get December salary between 18th to 22nd December every year. This is a tradition I met in NLC, and to the best of my knowledge, this is the first time that staff have been denied salaries before Christmas. The painful thing is that, nobody has offered any explanation to the staff on why we are not paid.
“It is painful and we do not deserve this treatment. The president has no moral right to therefore criticise other employers who are did not pay salaries before Christmas. Yes, we were paid bonus with our November salaries but nobody told us that we will not be paid in December and we did not plan for that, and as a result, our families are adversely affected. Some of us who do not have any source from which to borrow are literally stranded and are spending Christmas like any other day,” an aggrieved staff told our correspondent on Sunday.
Many of the callers, who pleaded anonymity for fear of alleged crackdown by Comrade Wabba, accused the NLC president of tyranny and highhandedness. They also accused the NLC President of usurping the constitutional powers of the General Secretary of NLC in a way that has demeaned the office to that of “a mere clerk to the President.
“Activities of Congress are always on a standstill whenever the President is away because the office General Secretary cannot give approval to any amount above ten thousand naira. The General Secretary is like a mere clerk to the President. Though with big office; and in the eyes of everybody seen as the head of the secretariat of Congress, but the office is impotent unlike in those days,” an employee told National Record shortly after the news containing Wabba’s condemnation of employers for not paying December salaries.
Another employee said Comrade Wabba had not only usurped powers of the office of General Secretary but also the organs of NLC, particularly powers of the National Administrative Council (NAC), which is composed of all elected national officers, the General Secretary, Deputy General Secretaries and heads of departments/unit of Congress public.
According to the employee, Wabba’s grip on the NAC is total; a situation which has allegedly ensured an absolute control over the entire power structure of the NLC because the NAC makes recommendations to the Central Working Committee (CWC) which in turn further makes recommendations to the National Executive Council (NEC) for final ratification in between quadrennial delegates’ conferences.
The source further stated that the current NAC is substantially composed of leaders of unions who had exited their offices or who had retired or whose unions are stoked in crisis and as a result not able to express independent views at meetings.
“The NAC as currently constituted is just a rubberstamp. This is because with the exception of a few independent-minded union leaders, many NAC members are no longer in the leadership of their unions. Others who are still leading their unions, you will see the unions in deep crisis.
“Unlike in the past when heads of departments of Congress are outspoken at NAC meetings, these days they are either afraid to do so or if they speak, nobody listens to them. To make matters worse, the few union leaders who are not able to tolerate the trenchant tyranny of the NLC President often do not attend organ meetings these days,” the source said.
A number of officials of state council officers who said they are members of the CWC and NEC corroborated the allegations by the staff of Congress noting that the CWC and NEC are easily manipulated especially since the Covid-19 pandemic with virtual meetings becoming the norm.
According to an elected state council officer, who also pleaded anonymity, in some cases, there are not more than 15 to 20 NEC members participating in some virtual meetings of NEC, apart from the fact that usually, notice of virtual meetings are transmitted at very short notices to members “making it impossible for many of us to participate.”
“I think this is a deliberate strategy and in some instances, some of us got to hear of NEC meeting being held from media reports,” the source stressed.
When contacted, the Head of Information of the NLC said he had been out of Abuja since last week and therefore not able comment.
A call to the General Secretary of NLC, Comrade Emma Ugboaja, was not answered, just as an sms and whatsapp message sent to his MTN number were not responded to as at the time of going to press.
Similarly, calls to the Glo and MTN numbers of Comrade Wabba did not go through as it was alleged that he had barred this reporter’s mobile number from having access because of alleged “adversarial reporting by National Record.”