According to reports, the Imo Protest has led to the death of one, and others are reported to be injured.
Yesterday, at the ongoing Organized Labor protest in Owerri, the capital of Imo State, security agents abducted Joe Ajaero, the president of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), leaving one person presumed dead and numerous others injured.
Thugs attacked labor leaders and other protestors at the NLC State secretariat, smashing cars, beating people, and taking valuables like phones, cash, and ATM cards. The protesters were there to start the planned demonstration over unresolved labor issues.
The planned protest ahead of the strike today (Thursday) over the backlog of unpaid salaries and allowances, among other alleged transgressions by the Imo State government against workers in the State, was launched by the NLC President, other national leaders of the NLC, and their counterparts from the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, or TUC, at the State Secretariat in Owerri.
The Imo State administration is accused of a number of misdeeds, including implementing discriminatory pay practices, refusing to carry out prior agreements, underpaid gratuity arrears, unfairly designating employees as ghost workers, destroying the NLC state secretariat, and unpaid salary arrears.
Other examples include failing to pay the National Minimum Wage, intimidating and harassing trade union leaders, stealing union dues, using violence and thuggery, labeling pensioners as ghosts, persistently harassing and intimidating the workforce, opposing social discourse and collective bargaining, and interfering with democratic processes within the workplace.
As workers flocked to the NLC state secretariat at around eight in the morning to begin the protest, unprovoked violence broke out when thugs in ten minibusses carrying potentially lethal weapons broke into the Secretariat, attacked labor leaders, and drove the workers out.
Journalists and union officials were running for cover, making for a chaotic scene.
Nevertheless, the workers reconvened in the Secretariat, with Emma Ugboaja, the General Secretary and President of the NLC, leading them this time to start the protest.
A group of armed police officers and hooded individuals in vehicles reportedly invaded the location as Ajaero was about to address the crowd, arrested him along with a number of labor leaders and journalists, and opened fire.
Unverified reports said that the TVC cameraman was arrested and had his camera damaged and that an unidentified unionist had also been killed.
Fearing more attacks, the TVC reporter and other injured parties have already gone into hiding.
Speaking, Ajaero was arrested by the police under the command of the Commissioner of Police, as previously announced by NLC’s Head of Information and Publicity, Benson Upah.
The NLC President was kidnapped by armed policemen on Wednesday at the Imo State NLC secretariat, he alleged, just as the organization was ready to launch a legal protest against the workers’ trade union rights being violated.
In addition, NLC Assistant General Secretary and President Chris Onyeka’s Chief of Staff stated that he was standing next to Ajaero when he was assaulted and taken into custody during the event.
“The Police arrived amid attacks by thugs to arrest Ajaero as workers were gathering in Owerri, Imo State, to protest their mistreatment by the state government, and the President of NLC was about to address the workers.”
“Ajaero was first attacked and dragged off the platform by thugs, and then police arrived to arrest him and another senior NLC official.”
Emma Ugbaja, the general secretary of the NLC, claimed in an interview with Vanguard that the attack was carried out by the State Commissioner of Police under the state government’s direction.
He declared that as early as six in the morning, the government had dispatched “his thugs” to seize control of the region, adding that “the CP led the thugs into the place when they (the thugs) saw the (NLC) President.”
There were roughly five naval officers working. The President was detained, beaten, and taken to the police’s Tiger base; to date, no one has seen him.
Ajaero was brutalized and brought to FMC Owerri.
Vanguard learned, though, that Ajaero had been treated at a hospital after being freed and severely beaten by the police at the time of this report.
NLC’s Information Officer, Benson Upah, confirmed Ajaero’s release by describing what transpired as an attempted murder that turned into a crime of kidnapping.
“Congress President, Comrade Joe Ajaero, has been contacted this evening at approximately 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,” the statement reads.
“He was thoroughly brutalized, his right eye at the time of contact was completely shut. Ajaero, who spoke little, stated that immediately after his arrest, he was beaten up and blindfolded and taken to an unknown destination where more brutalization took place, sometimes with bottles. His phones, money, and other personal effects were taken from him and have not been returned to him.”
Ajaero has been wearing a neck collar and has weals all over his body. According to information obtained by Vanguard last night, he has been “referred for ophthalmic investigation, a head/brain scan, a full body scan, and cervical spine therapy, among other investigations.”
NUPENG issues a nationwide strike threat
The Nigeria Labour Congress, President Joe Ajaero, and other labor leaders have been attacked and brutalized by people they believe to be agents of the Imo State administration. As a result, the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, or NUPENG, has warned its members to prepare for a nationwide strike.
“We condemn with the strongest term the arrest and brutalization of Congress President, Comrade Joe Ajaero, and other labor leaders by the agents of Imo State Government,” stated Prince Williams Akporeha, President of NUPENG, in response to the news. We oppose Hope Uzodimma and his government’s acts of violence and savagery directed on labor leaders, employees, and other individuals. In a democracy, such uncivilized behavior is intolerable.
“We have alerted our members across the nation to the possibility of a nationwide strike in the event that Uzodimma persists in his attacks and brutalization of state employees and labor leaders in an uncivilized, uncultured, and barbaric manner. Imo State laborers need to be set free. Because harm done to one is harm done to others, we are committed to releasing the state employees.
Maritime workers kick
“Two national officers of MWUN: Abubakar Bello (Vice President-General) and Abudu Eroje (Deputy secretary-general) were brutally attacked, sustaining grave injuries and losing valuables such as their phones, money, and important documents,” the Maritime Workers’ Union of Nigeria (MWUN) said, denouncing the abuse of the NLC President and others.
“We strongly condemn the violent attack on the national officers of MWUN by hoodlums and miscreants at the premises of the state secretariat of the NLC Imo State chapter where they sustained grievous bodily harm and loss of their personal property including money, and phones,” stated Prince Adewale Adeyanju, the organization’s president, among other things in a statement.
Additionally, the Imo State Police Command’s arbitrary arrest and unlawful imprisonment of Comrade Joe Ajaero, the President of the NLC, is condemned by MWUN. This misuse of authority is unjustified, against the law, and directly hostile to the fundamental principles of democracy and the civil liberties that go along with it.
It is important to remember that the NLC’s appeal for a large-scale protest in Owerri is both valid and essential to freeing the common people of the state who are enslaved by the state apparatus. The two MWUN executives are still receiving urgent treatment as of the press release date.
Similarly, the Joint Action Front (JAF), a civil society organization that supports labor, denounced Ajaero’s detention as well as the claimed fear that police and thugs incited against journalists and workers at the request of Imo State Governor Hope Uzodinma.
In a statement, JAF Secretary Abiodun Aremu bemoaned the fact that Ajaero had not only been arrested but had also been physically abused prior to being placed under arrest.
“We consider the arrest of the NLC President and the repression of the protest as a brazen affront on the labour movement. We strongly hold that there must be a response with the full force of the labour