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Organised Labour, Police in War of Words Over Alleged Abduction, Brutalisation of NLC President Ajaero In Imo

Organised Labour, Police in War of Words Over Alleged Abduction, Brutalisation of NLC President Ajaero In Imo


The Imo state government stated that they have no hand in Ajaero’s arrest.

The alleged abduction and brutalisation of President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Joe Ajaero, yesterday, has continued to generate reactions, as the Imo State Police Command, NLC, and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) traded words.


However, NLC revealed yesterday that Ajaero had been admitted at the Federal Medical Centre in Owerri for treatment of wounds he sustained from alleged manhandling by the police.

A statement signed by NLC’s Head of Information and Publicity, Benson Upah, said, “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.”


Quoting Ajaero from the hospital bed in Owerri, Upah said he narrated how he was bundled out and blind-folded to an unknown place before being beaten up with objects, including bottles.

Upah said, “Ajaero, who said little, stated that immediately after his arrest, he was beaten up and blind-folded 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.”

But, in its reaction, the Imo State Police Command denied arresting Ajaero. The police explained that the NLC president was initially taken into protective custody at the State Command Headquarters to save him from lynching and he was subsequently given treatment for his injuries at the Police Medical Services, Owerri.


Imo State Government denied involvement in the arrest of the NLC president. The Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Hon. Declan Emelumba, in a statement yesterday, noted that those accusing the government were perennial mischief makers always crying wolf where there was none.

Emelumba recalled that the purported strike action in the state had been stopped by the National Industrial Court in Owerri, which makes the planned action illegal.

He also noted that in compliance with the court order, the Imo State chapter of NLC had announced that it was pulling out of the strike. He wondered what Ajaero was doing in Owerri in defiance of the order of the court, which warned of severe consequences against disobedience.


Ajaero was arrested during a protest rally led by the national leadership of the labour movement against alleged maltreatment of workers in the state.

As early as 8am Wednesday morning, workers started gathering at the state secretariat of NLC for the protest. But, suddenly, some men with harmful weapons stormed the secretariat and attacked the workers and chased them away.

However, the workers reassembled at the secretariat, but this time led by the NLC president and General Secretary, Emma Ugboaja, to commence the protest.

Just as Ajaero was about addressing the gathering, a team of armed policemen came and arrested him along with some officials of NLC and took them away.

There were several gunshots apparently fired to disperse the workers.

Many workers were arrested, including the crew of the TVC covering the protest, and some workers sustained injuries during the fracas.

Among the grievances of the workers was that the state owed workers and pensioners over 42 months’ salary arrears; declaration of thousands of workers and pensioners as ghost workers; and not properly implementing the national minimum wage.

The workers also accused the state government of trying to use the courts to stifle a lawful protest, and attempting to break the ranks of the unions in the state.

The organised labour maintained that Ajaero was abducted by Governor Hope Uzodimma and the Imo State Commissioner of Police.

In a statement jointly signed by General Secretary of NLC, Ugboaja, and his TUC counterpart, Mr. Nuhu Toro, the two labour centres threatened to mobilise the State Councils and the branches for immediate nationwide action if Ajaero was not released.

They alleged that Ajaero was arrested by the police, accompanied by thugs led by Special Assistant to the Governor of Imo State on Special Duties, Mr. Chinasa Nwaneri, and others, like Tapey and Madoka.

The statement said about the manhandling of Ajaero, “They inflicted heavy injuries and 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 unknown destination, where he is still being held incommunicado as we write.”

The statement further accused the Imo State government of violence and intimidation, saying, “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 machete 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 the venue accompanied by 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 unions noted that all they were asking was for Uzodimma to honour agreements signed between them and to respect the rights of workers in the state.

They stated, “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.

“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.”

They added, “With this statement, we want to put the Nigerian government on notice that we want the president of the 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 to 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.”

However, Imo State Police Command, in its statement signed by Police Public Relations Officer, ASP Okoye Henry, on behalf of the Commissioner of Police, argued that there was a court injunction from the National Industrial Court of Nigeria in Owerri with Suit No. NICN/OW/41/2023, dated 27th October, 2023, that barred the NLC from holding the intended protest rally in Owerri.

The statement said, “The Commissioner of Police, Imo State Police Command, CP Mohammed Ahmed Barde, therefore, urges all concerned parties to ensure compliance with the court directives so as to avoid jeopardising the current security arrangements on Owerri and other parts of Imo State, even as the state gears up for the forthcoming electioneering process on 11th November 2023,”

Some of the workers, who sustained injuries during the attack, narrated their experiences to journalists at the secretariat of the state council.

Speaking shortly after the fracas, Upah said the police stormed the secretariat and arrested Ajaero in flagrant disregard to locally and internationally recognised labour laws.

He lamented the action of the police, which he alleged, allowed thugs and hoodlums to a field day attacking and maiming innocent workers.

Addressing journalists on the incident, NLC Deputy General Secretary and Chief of Staff to the NLC president, Chris Onyeka, said he stood with Ajaero when he was brutalised and arrested.

Onyeka said, “As workers were gathering to protest their maltreatment by the state government in Owerri, Imo State, and the president of NLC was about addressing the workers, the police came, amidst 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 the NLC.”

THISDAY gathered that the arrest of Ajaero might be due to alleged disobedience of an order by the National Industrial Court restraining NLC and TUC from carrying out any protest in the state.

Meanwhile, the United Action Front of Civil Society warned Uzodinma that no harm must befall Ajaero.

Head, National Coordinating Secretariat, United Action Front of Civil Society, Olawale Okunniyi, in a statement issued yesterday, threatened a total shutdown of Abuja and Nigeria if Ajaero was harmed. Okunniyi said the Nigerian people were being pushed by bandits in power towards mass action.

He stated, “Governor of Imo State today shot himself in the leg, as anticipated, by abducting the NLC President, Comrade Joe Ajaero, the leader of the entire workforce and masses of Nigeria and will never no rest again.

“It will, therefore, be in the interest of the governor of Imo State that nothing happens to Ajaero in his illegal custody to avoid total shut down of Abuja and Nigeria, as the Nigerian people are being pushed by bandits in power towards mass action.”

The group also condemned in strongest terms the political crisis in Rivers State. It called on the Minister of Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Nyesom Wike, to desist from foisting any further rascality on Rivers State and to stop his desperate machination to impeach the Rivers State Governor, Sim Fubara, who only assumed office in May this year.

It added, “The ongoing crisis in Rivers State, which is no doubt the continuation of the political rascality and dictatorship of Mr. Wike, must not be allowed to undermine governance in Rivers State and even in the FCT, as It is rather unbecoming for the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory to be sponsoring the impeachment of his successor just five months of assuming office.

“The United Action Front of Civil Society, therefore, demand that the security agents under the control of the federal government must resist to be used as tools by Mr. Wike to settle scores in Rivers State.”



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