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*Nigeria: NUATE-Redeem Thine Image!
Labour, the popular saying goes, create wealth. We are all aware of this age old simple but strong statement. However when such wealth is not equitably distributed among the toilers of the wealth, agitations take root. In agitating, a mass movement is formed to correct the in-equality so discovered. Such mass movements have always led to the formation of labour unions for years till the present. Labour unions are known for unearthing corruptions and corrupt tendencies within corporate entities- be it- in government, public or private organisations. However, when unions or association that ought to fight corruption and agents of corruption and injustice descend to infamy and perpetuate the vices of social injustice and immorality, then what hope is left for members of such labour movement and especially the leadership of the union. This, in a nutshell is the story being unfolded at the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE). An abberation has been unfolded at NUATE on how not to fight corruption when the suspects are members of its leadership at national and branch levels.Sometime, early this year, there was an expose on an alleged planned extortion by the Secretary General of the union when he met with an official of one of the companies in concession agreement with the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria(FAAN). The aim of the meeting was to placate the company-MAEVIS- to part with some millions of Naira so as back down on the criticisms of the concession agreement which workers, as represented by the union leadership claimed was not in favour of FAAN.The recorded tape of the conversations were transcribed and published by this medium to expose the level some of the leaders of the workers could go to compromise the workers agitation on the platter of pot of “porridge”. ( Continues below….. )
Also, in similar deft and and corrupt move, the branch chairman of NUATE in FAAN headquarters in Lagos was fingered by his members of alleged extortion and other corrupt acts. Top echelons of the union at the branch level probed the various allegations against their chairman and found him culpable.Consequently, he was suspended. The uproar caused by the stories making the rounds among the workers and the unpopular being created for the union by the corrupt moves of some of their leaders informed the setting up of a fact-finding committee by the president of the union,Comrade Safiyanu.Inaugurating the committee on 14th March 2011, members of the 5-man panel were among others ,charged to:
*Carry out thorough investigation into the root cause of the said allegations
*Establish the veracity or otherwise of the allegations
*Verify the authenticity of the publication,and ascertain the veracity of such allegation and how it impugned on the union.Then suggest how to redeem the image and integrity of the union.
*Meet an verify with all the entities including the publisher mentioned in the publication as to determine the authenticity or otherwise of those issues raised in the publication vis-a-vis their interactions with Comrade Ogbuji.
*The committee to equally investigate the the circumstances surrounding the suspension of Comrade Uka Williams, the chairman of FAAN branch and make appropriate recommendations to the Central Executive Committee(CEC) of NUATE.
The committee started the job given to it by inviting and meeting with especially the official from MAEVIS and the publisher of the story which came out on-line in the NigerianAviationNews. Despite the appearance of the publisher of the said story before the 5-member committee for over an hour and making available to the committee the audio recording of the encounter between the secretary general and the official of MAEVIS, it was shocking that a committee as important as this will finally submit a four-page report without a single line/mention of the appearance and what the publisher said before the committee in it nor the submission of the audio recording mentioned!
Also the meeting between the committee members and that of the offical of MAEVIS and what he told them was never mentioned.What type of report is that? It is as good as being thrown into the dustbin. With this glaring omissions in a supposedly serious investigations,the committee has this to say of Comrade Uka Williams of FAAN branch-"The panel looked at the events before ,during and after the issues surrounding the suspension of Comrade Uka Williams- the branch chairman of NUATE FAAN, identified the role of greed, lies to cover ones tracks and lack of transparency on the path of the chairman as the cause of his problem with his colleagues from the branch."
Inspite of this discovery and that Comrade Williams shot himself in the legs through cover up and lies and lack of transparency, the committee went ahead to recommend his re-instatement to be preceeded with letter of apology from Uka.What sense of justice have members of the committee displayed? As fallout of the committee's recommendation on Uka Williams, there was near fisticuffs at the maintainance yard of FAAN mid-week between members of the FAAN branch and some executive over the recommendation calling for Uka's return to the fold as chairman depite the committee's double speak On Comrade Ogbuji, the Committee said that the Secretary General failed to appear before it to defend himself based on a letter he wrote through his solicitor initially claiming illness and days later another letter requesting for at least seven days notice before he could appear before the committee.
On resumed hearing, the committee was told that Comrade Ogbuji could not appear because he -Ogbuji has gone to court and so,"...the committee became handicapped on the matter hence, it decided to refer all issues surrounding the case to the CEC in session for the next lines of action". With the above summation on Ogbuji, the committee without hearing from him and weigh his submission with those by the publisher of the on-line medium and the MAEVIS official and audio tape evidence given to it, which speaks volumes, the committee summed up its report in this following warped "jugement"-: '...on net publication which from all purposes and intents could be regarded as a calculated attempt by the detractors of the union to bring down the reputable name of the union through the purported action of a principal officer of the union.......could not reach any conclusion on the matter.." If that is the case, then why is the committee saying the expose was an attempt by detractors when the panel could not bring all the facts gathered in the report submitted.On what bases have they written and submitted falsehood! This is a clarion call on the NUATE CEC not to sit on the fence on this matter. There are several issues begging for answers and if NUATE at the highest level could not clear augean stable ,it is as good as recommending the transfer of the matter to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission(EFCC) risk lossing members in droves to other unions or those that feel betrayed by activities of labour leaders and prefer tostay un-unionised as the current labour law allows for that.
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