James Ojo, Abuja
Suspected thugs, yesterday, attacked officials of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) who massed near the home of the Minister of Labour and Employment Dr. Chris Ngige in Asokoro for picketing.
No fewer than nine persons were injured in the melee and rushed to the Trauma Center of the National Hospital for treatment with two in a critical conditions.
NLC had on Tuesday issued a threat to picket the minister over the refusal to inaugurate the board of Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund(NSITF) with Frank Kokori as chairman.
Ngige responded to the threat that nobody could intimidate him on the NSITF issue.
Eyewitness confirmed that as early as 7a.m, two unmarked fuel trucks were used to barricade the entrance of the minister’s residence located on Justice Sowemimo Street in the nation’s capital.
A group of NLC officials and some journalists who gathered near the main gate were first dispersed by bouncers who appeared from an adjoining street.
Fresh temper arose with the arrival of the NLC president, Ayuba Wabba with more officials and the bouncers were joined by hoodlums who pelted them with stones and other dangerous weapons.
Some cars, which brought the NLC officials and some journalists, were damaged by the hoodlums.
The gate of the minister’s residence was under lock and key, while officials of civil defence and policemen on sentry refused to comment on the fracas.
But speaking at the National Hospital, Wabba condemned the attack by hired thugs, saying that picketing was a non-violent approach by Labour to resolve issues.
“The attacks on our member today by hired thugs showed the kind of people we are dealing with. Such is least expected in a civilised society.
“We are not bordered; thank God no life was lost, some of our members sustained injuries, two are critical but they are stable.
“The FCT Commissioner of Police just left and we told him what we expected from him. We have handed the copy of the video of the attack to him for investigation and apprehension of the hired thugs,” the NLC president said.
However, Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Ngige, has denied inviting thugs to attack union members who picketed his residence.
The minister, in a statement by his Special Assistant Media, Nwachukwu Obidiwe, accused the leadership of the NLC of leading those he described as strange faces to invade his house.
The statement said the invasion left his family members and staff traumatised by the invaders chanting “war songs.”
The statement read: “The private residence of the Hon. Minister of Labour and Employment, Sen. Chris Ngige was early this morning (4 a.m.) invaded by the President of the Nigerian Labour Congress, Ayuba Wabba and his members.
“These members among whom are tanker drivers, some with ferocious looks, also barricaded the gate to the residence of the Hon. Minister with two long trucks. They chanted war songs and prevented the Hon. Minister, his wife, children and other aides from either leaving or gaining access to the compound.
“Comrade Wabba later left and returned with re-enforcement. The presence of these strange faces and mounting war songs sent heavy panic on the family members, especially children and female aides, who thought the sudden early morning assemblage were of the underworld.
“Some of these unknown faces and the two tanker lorries blocking the entrance to the house are still there as I send this press statement .
“I, therefore, wish to state that contrary to reports being mischievously circulated in the media by the NLC President, the Hon. Minister, family members who are still in great trauma and his staff members did not invited thugs, have no knowledge of it, or have a hand in the alleged manhandling of any worker.”