Thoroughly brutalised,’Labour speaks on Ajaero’s arrest, threaten nationwide action

The Organised labour has spoken about the arrest of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) President, Comrade Joe Ajaero and also threatened a nationwide action in protest the arrest in Owerri by the Imo State Government.

A press statement signed by NLC and TUC General Secretaries, Comrade Emmanuel Ugboaja and Comrade Nuhu Toro, respectively, called on President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to call Imo Governor, Hope Uzodimma to order, saying that workers should not be held responsible for the consequences of the reaction of the two labour centres if Ajaero is not released immediately.

The NLC’s Head of Information, Benson Upah, narrated; “Contact was made with Congress President, Comrade Joe Ajaero this evening around 15: 30 hours at the Police Hospital in Owerri from where he was taken to Federal Medical Centre, Owerri where he is receiving medical attention.

“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.”

The statement in full read; “The Government of Imo state has continued to use the instrument of violence and intimidation against trade unions and their leadership in the state. Just as Nigerian workers gathered earlier this morning led by the leadership of the two labour centres to demonstrate our outrage over the serial and habitual abuse and violation of the rights of workers in the state; the Government unleashed blood-cuddling mayhem on the workers. Earlier in the morning, Policemen had tried to disperse workers who were gathering at the state NLC secretariat without success.

“This was followed in the usual manner by thugs who were stationed very close to the Secretariat in several Hilux and Toyota trucks. These thugs were later to unleash mayhem on the few workers who had already gathered smashing car windscreens, delivering matchet cuts on some, stabbing many, and inflicting all manners of injuries on the workers.

“GSM handsets were snatched, laptops taken away and monies were forcefully taken away by the hoodlums. As if that damage was not enough, the President of the NLC; comrade Joe Ajaero arrived at the venue accompanied by a few individual workers to inspect the carnage and to provide the necessary leadership for the trade union action to continue only to be met by Policemen of the Imo state Police Command who came in their numbers and in several trucks.

“The Police in the usual manner accompanied by thugs led by the Special Assistant to the Governor of Imo state on Special Duties: Mr Chinasa Nwaneri leading others like Tapey and Madoka descended on the President of the Congress after overpowering the few workers who were left after the initial battering, inflicted heavy injuries and big blows to his head and body and kicking him in the process while dragging him on the ground while the Police supervised the mayhem.

“They eventually bundled the President into their waiting van and whisked him away to where he is still being held incommunicado as we write. This latest action of the State Government and the Police further demonstrates our earlier cries to Nigerians on the level of violence and impunity going on in Imo State. If the President of Congress can be abducted in broad daylight and taken to an unknown destination by the Police and the State Governor, imagine, what they have been doing to workers and trade union leaders in the state! This is mind-boggling and unacceptable in sane societies.

“The use of violence against innocent citizens especially against trade union leaders by the state has unfortunately become the norm. It is a new normal that may cost our nation dearly if people are allowed to get away with such violence and bloodletting. All we have been asking the governor is to honour agreements signed between us and to respect the rights of workers in the state.

“Workers deserve their wage and if you are in the habit of owing workers, you make their lives unstable and strip them of their humanity. These are some of the things we have asked Hope to do but to which he has refused to heed instead, he believes in the use of intimidation and violence against the workers and the people.”

The statement further said; “We call on Nigerian workers, wherever they may be; in the respective industrial Unions; the state Councils and the Branches to be on alert for an immediate nationwide action if by the end of today, the President of the Congress is not released. We cannot be at work while our President is in the gulag and we cannot be at peace when the Government of Imo state continues to disrespect workers and treat them with utter disdain.

“With this statement, we want to put the Nigerian Government on notice that we want the President of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) immediately released. The injuries meted to him must be treated forthwith and his freedom to lead Nigerian workers in a peaceful protest guaranteed.

“This is what we demand as we proceed to the meetings of the various organs to take decisions on further steps that will be taken.

“If this is not heeded now, anything that happens in the country, the Governor of Imo State and the Police Commissioner must be held responsible. Nigeria is a Country of Laws and we especially the leaders must learn to work within its ambits.

“The IGP who is in the state must call his operatives in order to avoid loss of lives, properties and further injuries on innocent workers in Imo State. Workers in Imo State must be free and we must all join hands to ensure that this happens.”

The statement summated; “Hope Uzodimma must be called to order by the President and Commander in chief of the Armed forces to avert what he has chosen to turn the state into a den of thugs and bloodsuckers. We will press on with our engagement as trade unions until the Government listens to the demands of the workers.

“The Governor should not be deluded into thinking that today’s violence will stop our resolve and determination to save the workers of Imo state. It has encouraged us to organize more so that we will engage him more creatively and effectively. without further delay. Once again, we call on the Police to immediately release the President of Congress without further delay.”

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