30th December 2021
EXPOSING AND DEBUNKING A PATTERN OF MALICIOUS SLANDER AND LIBELLOUS PUBLICATIONS AGAINST THE LEADERSHIP OF THE NIGERIA LABOUR CONGRESS –
Once again, the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress wishes to extend to Nigerians season’s compliments and fraternal greetings.
Our attention has been drawn to a publication captioned “NLC Staff Accuse Wabba of Hypocrisy for not Paying December Salary yet Condemns Others” and published on 26th December 2021 by an online media – The National Record – which is being run by one Mr. Lawrence Iduh Onah.
First, we wish to posit that the Editor-in-Chief of the National Record, Mr. Lawrence Iduh Onah, clearly has an axe to grind with the Nigeria Labour Congress. Our perception in this wise is informed by the following facts:
- 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 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.
We will go ahead and list some of the recent malicious and false publications spurn against the Congress by the National Record and particularly by Mr. Lawrence Iduh Onah. We would also posit the true state of things with regards to some of the false information availed to the reading public by Mr. Iduh Onah through his online media.
- On March 15, 2021, the National Record published a story captioned “ASUU Can No Longer Trust Leaders of NLC Who have Sold Out”. In the report, the National Record claiming to be quoting a branch Chairman of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) misrepresented his claimed quotes as the view of the national leadership of ASUU. The intent clearly was to cast the reputation of the leadership of the NLC in great disrepute through making unsubstantiated claims that some Congress leaders wine and dine with government officials and corruptly share the national cake with government officials.
- On October 17, 2021, the National Record carried a story captioned “How Labour Leaders, Bureaucrats Collude with Employers to Sack Food Sector Workers: Part II”. The report sought to indict the leadership of the National Union of Food Beverages and Tobacco Employees (NUFBTE) under the NLC Vice President, Comrade Lateef Oyelekan, for instigating the redundancy of workers in the food manufacturing sub-sector. Despite featuring in the report the response of the General Secretary of NUFBTE who denied the spurious allegations, a denial that was corroborated by affected workers and even the leadership of another workers’ organization in the sub-sector, the Food, Beverage and Tobacco Senior Staff Association, a trade union which is not even affiliated to the NLC, the National Record went ahead with a caption which intent was clearly to malign and cast the reputation of labour leaders in disrepute.
- On 19th October 2021, the National Record claimed that the leadership of the NLC had refused to pay the staff of the Congress Secretariat the National Minimum Wage and consequential salary adjustment. We believe that the National Record knows that no staff of the NLC earns below the National Minimum Wage. This has been the case even before the new national minimum wage was negotiated, passed and signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari on 19th April 2019.
Furthermore, it is public knowledge that it is customary for the NLC to implement salary increment for its staff from time to time without necessarily waiting for the implementation of a new national minimum wage. The standard and tradition in the Nigeria Labour Congress has been to pay consequential adjustment in the salaries of our staff. Consequently, the national leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress set up a Committee of the National Administrative Council (NAC) to work out a template and make recommendations to the Central Working Committee – a statutory organ of the Congress comprising the leadership of the affiliate trade unions. This process has since been concluded and payments commenced.
- On 26th December 2021, the National Record published a story under the caption “NLC Staff Accuse Wabba of Hypocrisy for not Paying December Salary yet Condemns Others”. The report maliciously claimed that the Congress leadership withheld the December salaries of staff. This is completely untrue. As Congress has hardly ever failed to pay its staff before the end of the month. Unfortunately, the report latched on Congress plea with employers of labour to ensure that their workers have something for the Christmas celebration to launch its latest tirade against the leadership of the Congress.
The truth is that the Congress had in November 2021 paid two months’ salary advance to its staff – commonly referred to as the 13th month salary. We also paid End of the Year bonus to staff about three weeks ago. The Congress also bought gift items for distribution to staff just before Christmas. Like the 13th month salary, the Christmas bonus, three other special festivity bonuses (Sallahs and Easter) and gift items to staff were all initiatives that were sustained under the current leadership.
Also, this year, we extended the end of year bonus to staff in all our 36 State Councils and the Federal Capital Territory. The practise before now has been to limit such gesture only to the staff working at the national headquarters of the Congress.
Still under this Congress leadership, for the first time, Christmas bonus was provided not only to the staff of the Congress but was extended to the elders and veterans of our movement and their families. This gesture was also extended to the surviving families of the fallen heroes of our struggle including Comrade Chima Ubani and Comrade Olaitan Oyerinde.
Under this leadership, we have ensured that retiring staff are promptly paid their gratuity and benefits. This December, we approved a 100% increase in the pension of all NLC retirees.
Truth is that we have since paid the December salaries of staff.
- In his recent vitriolic diatribe against the leadership of the Congress, Mr. Lawrence Iduh Onah raised other patently false allegations on the administration of the business of Congress.
- First, he alleged that Congress President had hijacked the structures of Congress by drowning opposing views. Well, the fact is that the Congress by the reason of the traditions of the global trade union movement is one of most democratic and progressive institutions in Nigeria today. All the positions of the Congress are products of rigorous debates and consensus. It is important to note that the current leadership of the Congress prioritizes trade union unity. This informed the reconciliation of cracks in our wall of solidarity especially the recent reunification of the former United Labour Congress with the NLC.
- Furthermore, if by Mr. Onah’s account debates at our meetings end up in consensus and without rancour, such would only be the evidence of the confidence and support of our statutory organs – the National Administrative Council, Central Working Committee and the National Executive Council – on our leadership. It is unfortunate that a few disgruntled elements are not comfortable with the peace and unity that currently flourish in Congress and the broader Nigerian trade union movement.
- Second, in furtherance of his desperation to sow the seed of discord within the rank and file of the Congress, Mr. Lawrence Iduh Onah made a false claim in his article of 26th December 2021 that the General Secretary of the NLC had been reduced to an errand boy. This shows the level of ignorance and mischief that Mr. Iduh Onah would descend to in order to show his utter lack of respect for institutions and the leadership entrusted with administering the affairs of such institutions.
- It is public knowledge that since the inception of the NLC in 1978, the Constitution of Congress provides for an office of the President that is full time and entrusted the holder of the office with executive powers. The same Constitution also provides for the office of the General Secretary with his functions clearly spelt out in the Constitution. The truth is that the office of the General Secretary complements that of the President.
- Since the assumption of office of Comrade Ayuba Wabba as the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, he has worked with two General Secretaries. The first is Dr. Peter Ozo-Eson, an accomplished academic of more than thirty years scholarly vocation. They worked harmoniously until Dr. Ozo-Eson’s retirement from the services of the Congress after attaining the retirement age. The same cooperation and understanding have been the hallmark of my relationship with Comrade President. If not for the purpose of mischief, how did the Mr. Onah arrive at the conclusion that the President has turned the General Secretaries of the NLC into errand boys? Well, as it is said in law, “qui asserit probare debet” – “he that asserts must prove”.
- Third, Mr. Iduh Onah made puerile false allegation that for so many months now that Congress President had circumvented the meetings of the Congress to only take place virtually. Mr. Onah went on to posit that our last organ meetings were held virtually. Once again, the facts say otherwise. We only introduced virtual meetings sometime in 2020 after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and the issuing of public health protocols that restricted public gathering. In compliance with the public health guidelines of government, the NLC during the lockdown restricted physical attendance to meetings to a certain number while the rest of the members of our statutory organs were encouraged to attend virtually. How compliance with public health protocols became a basis for a so-called journalist to spew malicious invectives against Congress leadership should worry every rational person.
Since the lockdown was lifted and some of the public health protocols relaxed, most of the meetings of the organs of the Congress have been held physically while opportunities have been extended to those who may not be able to attend physically to join the meeting virtually. In fact, even after the relaxation of the lockdown and toning down of public health protocols, the NLC had had to pay for larger auditorium elsewhere apart from the Labour House to host some of our organ meetings. This is in order to ensure full attendance on one hand and adherence to public health protocols on the other. In fact, our recent NAC, CWC and NEC organ meetings have attracted more than 90% physical participation. It, therefore, beats us to see the sort of deliberate and wicked falsehood being peddled in the public space by Mr. Iduh Onah.
- Fourth, ancillary to the false claims of imposing virtual meetings is the claim that our last National Executive Council meeting took a decision to approve the consequential salary adjustment for staff of the Congress. This is patently false. The last meeting of the NEC never took any decision on the consequential salary increase. The decision on consequential salary increase was taken and approval granted at the last meeting of the Central Working Committee of the NLC which held on December 16, 2021. We are really amiss at where Mr. Lawrence Iduh Onah sources his information. Certainly, we need answers!
Premise for Malicious Slander and Libel
- Mr. Lawrence Iduh Onah 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.
- Despite being privy to our official communication channel which is firstname.lastname@example.org and despite our open-door policy to journalists and promotion of press freedom including retaining Mr. Lawrence Onah Iduh in our media list serve, 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 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.
We are 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.
Comrade Emmanuel Ugboaja, mni