Things fell apart for the nation’s organized labour yesterday as it failed to successfully conclude its 11th Delegates Conference which would have produced a new president and other executive members for the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC). The tenure of incumbent President, AbdulWahed I. Omar, ended on Wednesday.
Processes for a smooth political transition began on Sunday, February 8, 2015, and was expected to have ended on Wednesday, February 11, 2015 when elections into six offices of the congress would have been concluded. But ominous signs began to emerge on Tuesday when three affiliate unions of the congress staged a walkout.
Although the Congress’ Elders Forum, led by frontline labour administrator, Hassan Sunmonu, intervened and brought back the angry officials of the three affiliate unions to the International Conference Centre, Abuja, venue of the delegates conference, the decision by Comrade Aremu Issa, one of the deputy presidential candidates, to withdraw from the competitions gave signals to labour observers that all was not well with the congress.
Three candidates, Ajaero Joseph of the National Union of Electricity Workers (NUEE) Igwe Achese of the National Union of Petrol and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), and Wabba Ayuba of the Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria (MHWUN), were cleared for the presidential election until Wednesday afternoon when Comrade Achese informed the conference that he intended to run for the office of deputy president of congress.
Voting started, however, with the delegates of the Nigeria Union of Pensioners at 8:44pm on Wednesday, but the relatively smooth voting process was halted at 8:32am yesterday when delegates from the National Union of Electricity Workers alleged that the name of their candidate, Ajaero Joseph, was not reflected in some of the ballot papers issued.
They said the 526 delegates from Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria (MHWUN) had double ballot papers which they argued would be used for Ayuba. They claimed that the double voting by the MHWUN accounted for the five hours delegates from MHWUN spent in casting their ballot.
At that point, NUEE delegates and some of their sympathizers broke into solidarity songs and upturned the ballot boxes. This caused pandemonium with some delegates taking to their heels, while others scampered for safety inside the rest rooms at the International Conference Centre.
Shortly after, Achese emerged from the entrance gate to the venue with some of his supporters, saying, “It is quite unfortunate. We have worked so hard for this election. We never knew it would be rigged.” He added that he would address a press conference after a thorough assessment of the situation.
SavidNews gathered that an emergency National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the congress would be summoned.
Commenting on the development, Mrs. Funmi Komolafe, Labour Editor for Vanguard newspapers, said she had never seen the kind of rot in the congress in the last 30years she had been covering the beat. She said she was happy that Nigerian workers saw the fraud ravaging the congress.