Five years after the crisis and disunity that hit the Nigeria labor movement, peace yesterday returned to the movement as leaders and affiliates of United Labour Congress of Nigeria, ULC, rejoined the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, ending the rift that had weakened organized labor’s capacity to mobilize for mass actions against perceived anti-labor and anti-people policies of the government.
Imminent reconciliation of rift by both labor centers to form a more formidable NLC.
This came as the President of ULC, Joe Ajaero was announced as a Deputy President of NLC, while some members of the group were also fused into the leadership structure of NLC.
The unity was achieved by leaders of NLC and ULC during a reconciliation meeting at Labour House, Abuja, where they collapsed their structures into NLC.
Recall that in the wake of the disputed 2015 delegates’ conference of March 2015, which produced Mr. Ayuba Wabba as President, Ajaero of National Union of Electricity Employees, NUEE, and over 20 unios including the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, alleged fraud and broke away to form a faction of NLC.
Reading a statement co-signed by Ajaero and titled, “Our bond of brotherhood shall never be broken: Celebrating the reconciliation between the Nigeria Labour Congress and the United Labour Congress”, President of NLC, Wabba, among others, said, “Committed to the bond of brotherhood and solidarity which the labor movement all over the world is known for, the leadership of the NLC and the leadership of the ULC kept aglow the light of peaceful relations towards resolving their misunderstanding as the two leadership resorted to direct discussions aimed at ending the rift.
“The outcome of this quiet but sustained effort at making the peace is the fruit of the reconciliation that we are celebrating today. It is to the credit of the leadership of the NLC and the ULC that the bond of solidarity was never broken even at the height of misunderstanding.
“The NLC and ULC always cooperated and collaborated in defending Nigerian workers. This was the experience during negotiations for the new national minimum wage.
“It is remarkable that in the dark furnace that severely tested our commitment and selfless disposition to our movement’s age-long tradition of “Nigerian workers first”, we have managed to come out as gold, better and brighter. This is the story that overshadows the fleeting pains of the mosquito bites of our misunderstanding in the night.
“With this reconciliation, the leadership and structures of the ULC have been reintegrated into the NLC. In the reconciliation Memorandum of Understanding, MoU, signed between the two leaderships, the modus operandi for this re-integration and ancillary issues are spelled out to the satisfaction of both parties.
“We commend the leadership of our affiliate unions, state councils, and our statutory organs up to the National Delegates Conference whose mandate and support provided the ladder to this milestone reconciliation. We thank our rank and file and the social partners for their counsel, altruism, and support during the dark hour.
Labor to confront oppressors
Responding, Ajaero among others, said the reconciliation was a product of their collective decision noting that, “if we follow it emotionally, we won’t be back.”
He said that events of the next few days would show that “we are back; we will confront those who want to confront us. We are sending signals to those state governments that owe workers salaries.”
Genesis of crisis
Among others, the crisis began on March 14, 2015, after about 20 affiliates of NLC rejected the outcome of the election alleging fraud and manipulation of the result.
In fact, the election was rescheduled to March after the delegates’ conference slated for between February 8 and 11, 2015 ended in a fiasco.
The aggrieved unions led by Joe Ajaero, outgoing Deputy President of NLC, and General Secretary of NUEE, who contested against then outgoing Treasurer of NLC, and President of Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria, M&HWN, Mr. Ayuba Wabba, claimed the election was skewed to favor some candidates to cover suspected fraud.
The returning officer and pioneer General Secretary of NLC, Dangiwar Aliyu, while announcing the results, declared that Waba pulled 1, 695 votes of the 3115 votes to defeat Ajaero with 1, 140 votes.
But the aggrieved unions also alleged that some delegates from the South-South and southeast were disenfranchised to favor other ‘anointed’ candidates who would cover ugly tracks.
On March 20, 2015, in Lagos, 23 of the aggrieved unions, elected Ajaero, President, and the President of NUPENG, Igwe Achese, among others were elected leaders of the faction.
However, on December 18, 2016, the Ajaero led faction of NLC, announced the birth of ULC, with over 25 affiliates including some aggrieved affiliates of Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC.