By Olajide Unde
In sane climes, workers unions are partners in the organizations development ensuring amongst others, good working environs and welfare for members of staff. Far from
antagonism or troublemaking, Unionism is majorly to serve as a platform where workers can collectively federate their observations, opinions and suggestions and pass it through their leaders to the management which cannot because of time, situation and circumstances allow a regular convention of the management and the workers.
After several of such conventions have been exhausted; strikes, sit outs or protests are embarked upon. Note, these are legitimate tools created by law and as vistas for workers to peacefully and decently express their worries, call attention to their welfare, caution the management, make suggestions and call the attention of the management to progressive correctional issues. This right is even an internationally acceptable recognized one sanctioned by International Labour Organisation, ILO.
So it came as a shock to industry practitioners when workers of one of the parastatals under the Ministry of Information, National Orientation and Culture being superintended by Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Nigeria tourism development Corporation, NTDC, embarked on a protest that shut down the office located at the old Federal Government Secretariat, Area 1 Garki , Abuja.in the absence of the head of parastatal and without any forewarning or past dialogues with the Director General, Mr Folorunsho Coker.
Not undermining the right of workers embarking on a protest, strike or lockout, the onus here is the motive behind such and whether it is honorable or mischievous considering the timing.
With this in mind, industry watchers are of the belief that this particular strike action smacks of blackmail, which is so sad, particularly for a Director General who has spent less than one year in office and one who understands the importance of human capital development as highlighted in the organisation’s CHIEF plan introduced by Coker. H is Human Capital Development.
Fastidious in pursuing this path, Coker reiterates the need of developing new ways of making tourism work by working with people that can work effectively through their expertise to bring innovative and workable ideas to grow the tourism industry.
This he is presently pursuing by making sure his members of staff are up to date with happenings in the tourism community worldwide and also what it takes to operate a tourism agency in the age of new media. No small feat but one he his doing already.
If only NTDC Union leaders realise the joke is on them, blackmailing or intimidating the management will be relegated to the backburner. What tourism generates in Nigeria is nothing compared to what fellow African countries like Seychelles, South Africa, Kenya etc generate yearly. A big shame for a country like ours.
Union leaders need to take a cue from their counterparts in other climes who are supposed clinical about their purpose, steering off sentiments and personal loyalty when it comes to union issues, welfare and condition of service.
Now, more than ever, it is important they realize, they are first employees of the organisation before being a member of the Union and the essence of their employment is to serve the organization not to play politics and know where to draw the lines between playing Union duties and being dutiful at their post of responsibility.
Going by these propositions, one has no tiff with the fact that the NTDC Union leaders called their members to strike. Of course they have the rights, however, going by the past trend, it has now become a sequential occurrence and modus operandi of calling sudden ‘Strikes’ as a means of blackmail and that has to STOP!
Those familiar with this trend can attest to the fact that the urge to strike reared its head immediately Mrs Sally Mbanefo was appointed as the Director-General, NTDC in replacement of Otunba Olusegun Runsewe, a media practitioner and a rambunctious personality who has the history of fighting three tourism ministers to a standstill.
Her appointment gladdened not many hearts especially with a predecessor who worked more on the pages of the newspaper than on the job. His affection for the media through his over-the -top generosity was returned with splashes all over the media but at the expense of the industry that suffered no growth. Despite, several junkets to travel markets in almost all continents, our tourism arrivals enjoyed continuous decrease and domestic tourism was at it’d lowest ebb.
Also, Mbanefo appointment came at a time of economic recession leading to shrinkage of fund available to the corporation thus putting paid to access to free fund which can be employed and deployed to be a good DG either to the press, to staff in form of foreign trips and unnecessary free largesse and frivolous allowances and claims. If that wasn’t bad enough, there was bitterness arising from the abrupt sack of her predecessor who seemed to be angry that Sally lobbied him out of the job whilst nursing secret ambitions of returning to the job he was unceremoniously removed from while on assignment out of the country.
With constant interaction with the workers and the Union leaders who Sally inherited, the intrigue of the bitterness of a displaced DG who still has a lot of blind followers in NTDC with the union leader and workers who were not happy that things were not the same again, the era of strike crawled in. An examination of the reasons, modus operadi and demand of the workers will show that the whole strike actions being embarked in NTDC are out of tune, totally unwholesome and unethical.
Let’s read excerpts from some newspapers on the previous strike
On February 25, 2015, National newspaper under the Headline “NTDC workers’ strike enters the second week”, ‘The workers have vowed to continue with the industrial action until the agency’s director general, Mrs. Sally Mbanefo, is removed from office.
Last week, official activities at the parastatals Abuja and zonal offices were stopped.
The workers, through their union, Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations, Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees (AUPCTRE), have made several allegations against Mrs. Mbanefo.
They accused her of starving the agency of fund under the guise that the Federal Government was no longer funding the parastatal.
The workers accused her of “going behind to collect huge allocation from the Federal Government”.
The NTDC Chapel Chairman of AUPTCRE, Sam Unwuchola Okpomo, said as at July 2014, the Federal Government released N52,014,821 as capital budget and N342, 654,807 for training and other logistics to the agency.”
In September 3, 2015, in the Hallmark newspaper under the Headline, “Fears of sack forces NTDC boss to back down …as workers call off strike”
“It would be recalled that the protesting staff, led by Comrade Anthony Benjamin, in a memo obtained by Hallmark accused the DG of not properly mobilizing funds for the activities of the corporation as it relates to administrative functions.
They accused her of incapacitating the staff with the claim of a shortage of funds to perform the statutory functions of the corporation but overhead will be released and go out through other sources.
The staff said,” the DG does not fund the zonal offices, she will visit the zone and stop at the airport to insult the staff of the zone to their integrity by asking them to go and source for funds from affluent individuals for the running of the office. She did not even appreciate the efforts of the staff in ensuring the success of her visit to the state.
”We are tired of a DG who claims to be promoting domestic tourism but will not fund the zones offices where tourism potentials are domiciled organization but will tell the staff there in no money for official works but there is money for other fictitious travels by herself and her associates to different destinations.”
Daily Trust Sept 3 wrote
Striking NTDC workers call for DG’s removal
By Mustapha Suleiman | Publish Date: Sep 3 2015 5:47AM
‘On their demand, Comrade Kunama said: “We want her removal. She is killing the tourism sector. Except the government is not serious with tourism, but if the government wants to tap into the potentials of tourism to diversify the Nigerian economy, they have to remove her and bring in a professional that has a vision for the sector.”
The Federal government seemed to have seen through the malevolent and malicious intent of the unions or the workers and refused to pander to the unreasonable demands of the workers and refused to relief Sally of her job. Though Sally was removed in November 2016, it should be a matter of curious logic and interest that between November 2016 and May 2017 three DGs were in quick succession appointed and removed. Two of them, career officers and the other an outsider, none of them were accepted by the Union
And according to a presidency source, they were all removed majorly “due to the unnecessary antagonism to their appointment by the Union who was being used and manipulated and workers who engaged in writing acrimonious petition with some outsider who was willing to come back to NTDC who took solace at sponsoring media attack against the appointees’.
And the Federal Government brought in Coker, who has distinguished himself in the public sector, government and a memorable tenure as Lagos State Commissioner for Tourism. The problem with Coker according to an investigation commenced shows that his preference for domestic tourism as against the floundering of the meagre fund of the Corporation on foreign fair and Travel markets.
In December 1 2017 in the Nation’s online, under the headline
“Protesting workers seek sack of NTDC’s DG’
‘Activities were paralysed at the headquarters of the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), on Wednesday, following a protest by workers who called for the sack of its Director General, Mr. Folorunsho Folarin Coker, for incompetence. The workers accused Coker of highhandedness, saying the DG had not improved their welfare since his appointment.
They said they were disappointed by the “ugly development” in the corporation. The workers noted that Coker illegally set up a project unit, which, they claimed, is not part of the NTDC’s line of activity. They said the unit was a conduit to siphon public funds.’
A few online publications graced their platforms with this news under different slants. A cursory examination and contextual synthesis of the grievances of the works or union under Sally Mbanefo and Coker extensively exposed the rut of a corporation. The sole reason is “The removal of the DG without any concrete allegation or advocacy for workers!“
During the tenure of Sally Mbanefo, it is shameful that none of the allegation levelled against were strong enough to convict her till date. All allegations were unfounded and malicious. The lady was never found wanting or guilty.
Going through the protest letter sent out in 2017 against Coker, one can see that it is not only watery but of no substance. The fault is in not in the workers being teleguided sheepishly by a Union which is being sponsored and used by some external elements who believe NTDC is their birthright but shame of the successive superintending Minister who watch as NTDC is hijacked by the Union who seems to find listening ears and cooperation of the said Minister. The fact is that NTDC needs urgent and prompt surgical operation. It is a corporation full of old doldorous pantaloons and deadwood evil servants who are loyal to persons, not the office. Some of them have no particular assignment or solids scheduled duty.
Any serious government will not only refuse to harken to their silly demands but will go a step further by appropriately restructuring and rightsizing the workers by separating those who want to work for the nation from the goons who want to play cheap politics and those who love to be used as agent of destabilization. NTDC should be clean and straightened up, the time to act is now.
However , the symbolism of the recent phenomenal changes being injected into NTDC by Folorunso Folarin Coker via the ‘Tour Nigeria’ brand which has recorded intracontinental acceptance and acknowledgement with the historic passing of the NTDC Bill by the Senate should not be truncated. Let the process of laundering the NTDC starts now. Let’s reposition it for purposeful activation
Let’s create the ambience for productive piloting for Folorunso Folarin Coker has within 6 months demonstrated and signposted the ability and sagacity of a reformer.
The ball is in the court of the President Muhammadu Buhari and Alhaji Lai Mohammed.
I leave you with this:
Nigeria tourism is beyond the concept of a single person. Is it not curious that NTDC to some few minds cannot be a good corporation until a certain person or persons rule the place ? Or has not been okay since certain person has been removed ? Why can’t we cast our minds on this observation? Can’t we think beyond our personal and selfish consideration ? Why should we continue using the gullible Union leaders to rock the boat of NTDC and destroy the Industry just because the person there is not tending to our selfish demands or because the fellow there is not the person we would have loved to be there? The so called NTDC workers are only hitting themselves below the belt because they are only calling attention of the government to the fact that the place needs a surgical operation.