Chris Ngige, minister of labour and employment, has denied inviting thugs to manhandle protesting workers who blocked the entrance to his residence in Abuja on Wednesday.

The minister issued the denial in a statement by Nwachukwu Obidiwe, his special assistant on media.

The protesting members of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) had picketed the Abuja residence of the minister over the alleged exclusion of a member of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) from the board.

During the protest, a group of thugs attacked the protesting workers with sticks and stones, and chased them away from the minister’s residence.

But Ngige, in the statement, said that he “did not invite thugs” and also “had no hand in the alleged manhandling of any worker.”

“The private residence of the Minister of Labour was, early this morning (4 a.m.), invaded by the President of the Nigerian Labour Congress, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, and his members,” the statement read.

“These members, among whom are tanker drivers, some with ferocious looks, also barricaded the gate to the residence of the 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 Waba 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, the minister and his family who are in trauma did not invite thugs.

“He had no knowledge of it, or had a hand in the alleged manhandling of any worker.”

NLC had given the minister an ultimatum to inaugurate the board of the NSITF with Frank Kokori as the chairman.

The union claimed that Ngige was responsible for the change of the appointment of Kokori to chair the labour institute in Ilorin.

That ultimatum, which expired on May 1, led to the Wednesday protest by labour in Abuja

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