CITIZENS COMPASS —The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) is preparing for another nationwide strike to demand justice over the harassment of its President, Joe Ajaero and other leaders during a peaceful protest in Owerri, Imo State.
Among the global workers’ groups that are demanding justice for Ajaero and other brutalized labour leaders and workers are the Italian General Confederation of Labour, IGCL, the Tunisian General Labour Union, UGTT, the International Trade Union Confederation, ITUC, and Organisationation of Trade Unions of West Africa, OTUWA.
This came as critical sector unions in Nigeria have been mobilizing their members for a nationwide strike over the brutalisation and humiliation of the NLC President.
Among the unions are Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, (NUPENG), Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, (PENGASSAN) , National Union of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions Employees (NUBIFIE).
Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria, MWUN, National Union of Food Beverage and Tobacco Employees, (NUFBTE), Aviation sector unions, and National Union of Textile Garment and Tailoring Workers Union of Nigeria (NUTGTWN).
Recall that suspected agents of the state and security operatives had descended on Ajaero alongside other Labour leaders, smashing their vehicles, inflicting injuries on them and dispossessing handsets, money, ATM cards among other valuables from the Labour leaders and others who had gathered at the NLC state secretariat to begin a scheduled protest over pending labour issues.
The NLC President, other national leaders of NLC and their Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC, counterparts, were at the NLC state Secretariat in Owerri to protest among other grievances backlog of unpaid salaries and allowances, Pensions, gratuities and non-compliance with National Minimum Wage Act.
OTUWA, in a statement by its Executive Secretary, John Odah, among others, said, “Against the background of the negative image that Nigeria has endured in recent times as a result of the wrangling among the political elites of our country, it is disheartening that the APC Government in Imo State has no qualms in carrying out this scale of dastardly attack which once again put Nigeria in the news as a country where trade union leaders are battered for daring to protest against several months of unpaid wages and sundry labour relations issues.
“We in OTUWA had wrongly believed that this dark era in labour relations ended with the Obasanjo regime which was the last time an NLC President – Comrade Adams Oshiomhole – was brutalised by State Security agents and detained by the police in early 2005.
“The alarming thing about the attack by Mr. Hope Uzodimma against the NLC President in connivance with the Nigeria Police is the deployment of well-armed thugs who were recruited by the government of Imo State.
“The undersigned is currently attending a Continental Trade Union Forum in Johannesburg, South Africa where I am bombarded with inquiries from colleagues around the continent of Nigeria descended to this all-time fascistic and brutal low in labour relations. This is indeed horrific.
OTUWA holds Governor Hope Uzodimma responsible for whatever happens to Comrade Joe Ajaero in the duration of his time as Governor of Imo State.
“We call on President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to call Governor Hope Uzodimma who is his fellow party member to order. President Tinubu should also ensure that the attack on Comrade Joe Ajaero is thoroughly investigated, and the necessary due diligence applied to bring the perpetrators of this heinous attempt on the life of the NLC President are prosecuted to the full extent of the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
It urged the Nigerian government to prevent any attack against workers and their trade union leaders.”
On its part, ITUC, in a petition to the Director-General of the International Labour Organization, ILO, by the General Secretary, LUC Triangle, while recalling the event of 1 November 2023, in Owerri, ITUC lamented that “this event follows one that occurred 6 September 2023, in which the Imo State’s police force harassed intimidated, and locked up trade union leaders who were carrying out their lawful duties, monitoring and coordinating a nationwide strike from within the state”.
Leaders of NLC and TUC had, Friday, demanded, among others, the immediate removal of the Commissioner of Police, Imo State and Area Commander, among other officials, for the alleged complicity in the brutalisation and humiliation of Ajaero and other workers before November 8.
Some Nigerians have praised the police in Imo State for what they called the prompt rescue of the President of Nigeria Labour Congress, Comrade Joe Ajaero, from a mob that wanted to lynch him during a political rally.
They submitted that contrary to the claim by the NLC that Ajaero was on a Labour-related protest in Imo State, he was actually there for a political campaign for the Labour Party.
According to former presidential aide, Mrs Lauretta Onochie, if not for the timely intervention of the police, something more drastic would have happened to Ajaero.