The Chairman of All Progressives Congress (APC), Adams Oshiomhole, on Monday threatened to suspend and thereafter expel the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, from the party if he failed to inaugurate the board members of federal agencies and parastatal under his ministry.
He said once he expelled any minister, he would also prevail on President Muhammadu Buhari to sack such person from his cabinet.
He handed down the threat in an interview with State House correspondents at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Oshiomhole said the APC under his leadership would not continue to tolerate ministers who abuse their offices and disrespect President Buhari by refusing to carry out his orders.
The APC Chairman said if Buhari decided to condone disrespect for his office, he Oshiomohole would not allow any government official to disrespect the party.
Ngige had earlier faulted Oshiomhole on the constitution and inauguration of the board members of federal agencies and parastatals under his ministry.
The APC chairman, in a letter, had given the labour minister one week within which to constitute the board of the parastatals and agencies under his ministry.
The parastatals and agencies are the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund, National Directorate of Employment, National Productivity Centre , and Michael Imoudu Institute for Labour Studies .
But, Ngige, in his reply, explained why he would not constitute the NSITF board within the one week ultimatum given to him by Oshiomhole.
The minister had expressed disbelief that such a letter could emanate from the APC chairman.
But Oshiomhole said he would wield the big stick if the minister failed to comply with the directive.
He said, “If the minister refused, we will suspend him from the party. You know we must return to internal discipline. For me, it is the height of mischief for any minister, you cannot purport to be a honourable minister and you act dishonourably and nobody is greater than the party.
“If the President condones disrespect for his office, I will not condone disrespect for the party. And when we expel the minister we will prevail on the President that he can’t keep in his cabinet people who have neither respect for his own decisions nor have respect for the party without which they would not have been ministers.
“There are no independent candidates in our system. Nobody, I emphasise, no minister is above the party and they have taken undue advantage of the President’s fatherly disposition.”
Oshiomhole said it was the same “green pen” that made them ministers that appointed the board members that they were refusing to inaugurate.
He said it was illegal for a minister in a democracy to subvert the powers of the boards because the laws establishing the institutions were clear.
The party chairman said he was sure that the ministers did not have the President’s backing in their actions.
He added, “When a minister sits in his office to appropriate the powers of the board in a democracy, not in a dictatorship, and award contracts that didn’t go through boards, those are clear abuse of office for which they are liable.
“I am convinced that what they are doing is not with the endorsement of Mr. President. Over the period, they have tried to drop the President’s name but I tell them it is the same authority that appoints these people.
“So, we are informing them that it is either they comply with the President’s instructions or they comply with the party’s position or they go and administer outside the government.
“We have respect for ministers but only to the extent that they recognise that they are products of a political party and we are not negotiating that.
“If they did that in the past, under our leadership we will not tolerate it. They either comply or we will expel them from the party. When we expel them, we will find out how a government can keep a rebel in the cabinet. There is no question about that.”
Ngige however refused to respond to the sack threat, stating that he had nothing to add to what he earlier stated in his letter.
Reacting through his Personal Assistant, Nwachukwu Ngige, the labour minister said, “We don’t have any other response, what the minister wrote in his letter (to Oshiomhole), he had written, so, we have nothing to add.”
Ngige, had in the letter to the APC chairman dated July 17, explained that he did not constitute the board of the NSITF on account of the N48bn fraud in the agency which is being probed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
The minister stated that he had a presidential directive not to inaugurate the NSITF board at the time he set up the boards of the NDE, NPC and Michael Imoudu Institute for Labour Studies.
Ngige stated this in his letter to the APC chairman in response to Oshiomhole’s directive that all ministers should inaugurate the boards of agencies under their ministries within one week.
“I am sorry that I will be unable to accede to your “directives” to inaugurate all the boards within one week as the ministry had already inaugurated the aforementioned three boards but will in this case of the NSITF adhere to the “work plan” on the NSITF as approved by Mr. President who is the Head of the Government of the Federation,” the minister stated.
Ngige added that the Administrative and Financial Panel of Enquiry had just concluded its work and presented its report, adding that the NSITF board would be put in place latest by July 31 to assist with the implementation of the recommendations by a committee being put in place by the ministry.
The committee, he added, would sanitise the agency and strengthen the very weak internal audit system that allowed N5bn to be taken out of this organisation in one single day without vouchers.