Minister of Labour and Employment Dr Chris Ngige has said that he initially disregarded news of the demise of Imo North Senator Benjamin Uwajumogu. The visibly saddened minster said he thought it was Fake News when he first received news of the Senator’s death.
Ngige made the comment on Friday when he led a high-powered delegation to pay condolence to the family of the late Senator. Among those in the delegation were the Minister of State Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo, representative of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and current General Secretary, Barrister Ugbaja, and Directors of the Federal Ministry of Labour.
During his address Ngige described the late Uwajumogu, who until his death was the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Labour and Employment, as a friend of the Ministry. He noted that Uwajumogu was a man of peace.
“We are here on a condolence visit by the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment and our social partners. We won’t have set up this emergency team if the late Uwajumogu was not a friend of the Ministry,” Ngige said.
“If Benjamin was a troublesome person we may have not be here. When the Senate was convened, we were engaged in discussions for leadership positions and other matters, because at that time there were only two Senators from the South East.
“He was at that period a ranking Senator, but he had legal battles to deal with and before he could finish the battle the 9th Senate was inaugurated and principal officers were already elected.”
Recalling his contributions as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Labour and Employment, Ngige noted that Uwajumogu was a very competent administrator who never desperate for power or leadership positions.
He said: “Despite that he never lobbied to become the labour committee chairman, he was unanimously posted to chair the Labour Committee, and I was brought back as Labour Minister.
“My staff members and I discovered him as very competent administrator. He was also quick to fuse together the Senate and House of Representatives Committee on Labour and Employment, thereby making it a joint committee.
“He was someone who is not desperate for power, [and] despite being the Senate Committee Chairman Uwajumogu on some occasions would ask, the Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Labour to preside over meetings and he would be seated in the meeting. That would show you the degree of humility and the way he perceived the work and assignment that was given to him.
“The Labour Ministry enjoys a friendly relationship with the Senate and 9th National Assembly, but we got more and felt the friendship in the Labour Committee, and that is why you can see all of us gathered here to come and condole with you people.”
Recalling Uwajumogu’s last moments with the Senator, Ngige said: “He was with us on Monday and spent one to two hours, in fact we concluded the session with the Permanent Secretary. When the Permanent Secretary left, we started discussing as politicians. Myself, Benjamin and the Chairman of the House of Representatives’ Labour Committee, Honorable Wudil, concluded our discussions and I saw them off, and I didn’t know that that was the last time that Benjamin had come to show himself. As a matter of fact it was Benjamin that arranged for the meeting to take place at my home.
“I was at the Federal Executive Council and the President adjourned for a break – we don’t normally go into the meeting with our phones – when I came out to make some calls, messages started coming in about his death, and I said, well, this is a Fake News. I didn’t believe it; only for me to confirm.
“We can identify him as a friend of the Ministry and other parastatals. We also want to say that we as a Ministry would support the family in anyway that we can.
“When he was Speaker of the Imo State House of Assembly, we can vouch that he was a man who believes in leadership, respects leadership and believes that everyone should be given what is due for him or her. He was very democratic and, for us a party, we have lost a democrat and the nation has also lost a very huge democrat.”
The Minister enjoined the family to take heart and to see his death as the will of God.