Ex-NADECO chieftain and former General Secretary, National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers Union (NUPENG), Chief Frank Kokori has again lashed out Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige.
Concise News reports that Kokori expressed his frustration towards Minister Ngige at the scheduled inauguration of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF), shortly after it was postponed indefinitely.
In 2018, Kokori accused Ngige of “abridging his rights”.
“I’m proud of you (struggles to hold back tears), Kokori says.
“I’ve done my best for my country. When nobody raised their voice against the military, I came out with the Unions to fight for freedom and democracy of my country…
“…twenty years after democracy, Frank Kokori, is being oppressed by somebody like Ngige.”
As he spoke, one could see him struggling to keep his shaky hands steady. His voice was shaky as well.
Even after taking a few seconds to calm himself, one could not only hear his voice shaking but also feel his pain as he continued to speak.
Kokori, who recalls how he fought for democracy and was detained for years, says Ngige is acting on his own, as the president “he knows” would not treat him unjustly.
The inauguration of the NSITF was scheduled to hold at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday at the minister’s conference room at the Ministry of Labour.
Earlier, Kokori was named as the chairman-designate by the Presidency. However, the labour minister omitted his name when listing those to be inaugurated.
The board membership was constituted by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo in October 2017 in his capacity as Acting President. Ministers are empowered to inaugurate boards of agencies in their ministries.
According to Premium Times, Kokori, a former labour leader during the Sani Abacha military dictatorship vows to attend the inauguration.
At about 11:40 a.m., when guests were seated, the Director of Human Resources in the labour ministry, Ajibola Ibrahim, came in to announce that the inauguration has been postponed indefinitely.
“The minister has sent me to inform you that the inauguration has been postponed indefinitely. He asked me to apologise for any inconvenience this may have caused.
“He said I should tell you that a new date will be announced later,” he says.
Also, Ibrahim says many of the members were “not present,” thus the postponement.
At this point, members of labour unions began to protest the announcement as they accused the minister of planning to hold a secret inauguration with the intention of replacing Kokori as chairman of the board.
The Nigeria Labour Congress President (NLC), Ayuba Waba, led other labour activists to the gathering.
Injustice meted out to me – Kokori
In his remark, Kokori calls to mind how he rejected bribes because he decided to stand for democracy.
According to him, the labour minister is persecuting him because he (Kokori) is known as a man of integrity.
“I spent four years in one of the worst prisons in the world, in Bama Prisons, in solitary confinement. In 1997, I was declared a prisoner of war by Saint Pope John Paul. The same year, Nelson Mandela declared me a notable world prisoner of conscience.
“I stood for this country and I fought for democracy and all my years in this country, there were temptationsBama to take the biggest bribes. I stood my ground for democracy.
“Twenty years after democracy, Chief Frank Kokori, is being oppressed by somebody like Nigige. The reason is that Frank Kokori is regarded as a man of integrity, a man of honour and a transparent man.
“And this is a government which talks of integrity and you allow a man like Ngige to humiliate me for two years after the appointment,” he says.
Furthermore, he says he has subjected himself to trauma for over two years after being congratulated several times by the minister and assured of inauguration by the president.
“I feel Ngige is on his own. He is dragging the name of the president. Not the president I know,” he adds.
Kokori was one of the activists who protested against the annulment of the June 12, 1993, presidential election won by business mogul, Moshood Abiola.
Chief Abiola went ahead to declare himself president prompting the military to arrest and detain him on charges of treason.
The annulment of the election – considered Nigeria’s freest ever – and the detention of Abiola let to major protests and strikes by workers’ unions led in part by Kokori.
His union, NUPENG, launched a nationwide strike in 1994 condemning the annulment and asking for a disannulment and also demanding that Abiola be freed.
He was arrested in August of the same year and detained by the Sani Abacha military government without charges and was put in solitary confinement in Bama Prison.
Kokori was eventually released in 1998 when General Abdulsalam Abubakar, who succeeded Abacha who died in office, came into power. Abubakar ordered his release as well as that of other political activists and journalists who were detained.
He was declared Prisoner of Conscience by the late Nelson Mandela and Pope Saint John Paul II in 1997 and the International Labour Organisation (ILO), Amnesty International (AI) declared him a prisoner of conscience between August 1994 and June 1998.
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