The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and sister unions on Thursday, vowed to take action against the Imo State governor of Governor Hope Uzodimma, following the brutalisation of NLC President, Joe Ajaero, in Owerri, the Imo State capital on Wednesday.
This was as Uzodimma, while reacting to the Wednesday crisis on Thursday, accused the NLC President, who is an indigene of Imo State, of meddling in the state’s politics.
Uzodimma said Ajaero must learn to draw a line between his role as a labour leader and being a partisan Imo State indigene.
The governor accused the leader of trying to blackmail his government over non-payment of salaries, insisting that all Imo workers have been paid their due wages.
It was gathered that Ajaero was brutalised by policemen in Owerri, the Imo State capital on Wednesday when he went to mobilise workers for a strike.
Ajaero had, during a press briefing on Sunday, accused the Imo State government of “violating the rights of the Nigerian workers in the state” and, therefore, vowed to mobilise members of the union in the state for a strike.
The Head of Information of the NLC, Benson Upah, said Ajaero was picked up at the state secretariat of the NLC in Owerri and taken to an unknown location, after which he reappeared hours later, brutalised.
The NLC accused the state government of masterminding the attack on Ajaero, who was injured and hospitalised.
But Uzodimma, on Thursday, refuted the claim while speaking to State House Correspondents in Abuja after meeting with President Bola Tinubu to receive the APC flag as the ruling party’s governorship candidate for Imo State.
Uzodimma said, “What has happened in this ugly coincidence is that the National President of the Nigeria Labour Congress is from Imo State and has not been able to demarcate the between being a national leader of an organisation and then an interested party in local politics
“I understand the sensitivity of this event (protest). But I want you people to be very careful because there is an attempt to mix up partisan politics or an attempt to blackmail my government.
“I can tell you that my people are already aware; that was why the NLC Imo State chapter addressed a world press conference that what their national leadership is doing is not correct and that they are not going to join any strikes or protests.
“And in the process, they decided to dissolve them to put in a caretaker. Of course, I’m the chief security officer and I have a responsibility to intervene. I encourage the national leadership not to dissolve a management team that their tenure had not expired, and that was what they did.”
The governor, who said he does not interfere with labour matters, noted that he has convinced his “workers in Imo State to believe in me, and that trust is what opposition parties are trying to fight.”
Uzodimma argued that his administration did not owe workers’ salaries.
“No wonder the entire labour congress of Imo State chapter endorsed me and I’m the only candidate they are supporting in the election. The Nigerian Union of Pensioners also endorsed me,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Imo State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Declan Emelumba, on Thursday, said that those accusing the state government of having hands in Ajaero’s travails were mischief makers.
A statement by the government said, “Imo State government has washed its hands clean concerning the arrest of the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Comrade Joe Ajaero.”
The commissioner said he recalled that the strike had been called off and “wondered what Ajaero was doing in Owerri in defiance of the order of the court, which warned of severe consequences against disobedience.”
But the NLC, on Thursday, vowed to take action following the brutalisation of its national president, Ajaero.
The union also noted that a decision would be taken following a meeting of all its organs.
The Head of Information of the NLC, Benson Upah, made this known in an interview with our correspondent in Abuja.
Giving an update on the matter on Thursday, Upah said, “There will be a full and appropriate response. As soon as the organs meet, you will be availed the details.”
Similarly, the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics has condemned the attack on Ajaero.
In a statement signed by its National President, Anderson Ezeibe, the union said it would await directives from the NLC on the steps to take.
The statement partly read, “Our union has been closely monitoring reports from Imo State as it affects the planned protest by the leaderships of the NLC and TUC over the conditions of Imo workers in Imo State.
“It is shocking to read reports of attacks and brutalisation of unarmed workers and the leadership of the NLC to the extent of causing bodily harm to our protesting comrades who were only expressing their constitutionally guaranteed rights to freedom of association and expression.”
While demanding “the swift intervention of the President of the country” in the matter, ASUP stated that it was “awaiting further directives from the organs of the NLC on this matter.”
Madukwe B. Nwabuisi is an accomplished journalist renown for his fearless reporting style and extensive expertise in the field. He is an investigative journalist, who has established himself as a kamikaze reporter.