The President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Joe Ajaero, has been arrested in Owerri, the capital of Imo State. This development comes as the labor union had pledged to mobilize its members for a comprehensive strike in Imo State, commencing today, November 1, 2023.
During a press briefing, Ajaero had accused the Imo State Government of “violating the rights of the Nigerian workers in the state.”
All Nigeria Latest News reports that Ajaero was picked up from the Congress State Council Secretariat by heavily armed operatives in Owerri and taken to an unknown destination.
Organised labour, in a joint statement signed by General Secretaries of the NLC and TUC, Emmanuel Ugboaja and Nuhu Toro, respectively, called on Nigerian workers, state councils and their branches to be on alert for immediate nationwide action, stating that they could not be at peace when the government of Imo State continues to disrespect workers and treat them with utter disdain.
Narrating what happened yesterday, they alleged that policemen tried to disperse workers who were gathering at the state NLC secretariat without success until thugs were later mobilised to the venue to unleash mayhem on the workers who had already gathered, smashing car windscreens, delivering machete cuts on some, stabbing many, and inflicting all manners of injuries on workers.
They said Ajaero had arrived at the venue, accompanied by a few workers to inspect the carnage and provide necessary leadership for the trade union’s next action only to be met by policemen who came in their numbers and in several trucks.
“The police, accompanied by thugs led by the Special Assistant to the Governor on Special Duties, Chinasa Nwaneri, descended on the NLC president after overpowering the few workers who were left after the initial battering. They inflicted heavy injuries and blows to his head and body, kicking him in the process while dragging him on the ground in the presence of the police.
“They eventually bundled the president into their waiting van and whisked him away to an unknown destination. This latest action further demonstrates our earlier cries to Nigerians on the level of violence and impunity going on in Imo. If the NLC president can be abducted in broad daylight, imagine what they have been doing to workers and trade union leaders in the state,” the statement said.
Also, while giving account of the incident, the Chief of Staff to the NLC president, Chris Onyeka, said he was standing with Ajaero when he was brutalised and arrested.
“As workers were gathering to protest their maltreatment by the state government in Owerri, the police came amid attacks by thugs to arrest Ajaero. Thugs first attacked and dragged Ajaero from the platform before police came to arrest him along with another senior official of NLC,” he said.
Following pressure from labour leaders across the country, the security forces around 3:00p.m released Ajaero with wounds on his body and bruises on his face before he was later hospitalised.
Giving an update, Head of Information and Publicity at NLC, Benson Upah, said: “Contact was made with Congress President around 3:30p.m. at the Police Hospital in Owerri from where he was taken to Federal Medical Centre, Owerri where he is receiving medical attention.
“He was thoroughly brutalised, his right eye at the time of contact was completely shut. Ajaero, who said little, stated that immediately after his arrest, he was beaten up and blindfolded and taken to an unknown destination where more brutalisation took place, sometimes with bottles. His phones, money and other personal effects were taken off him and have not been returned to him.”