The President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Joe Ajaero, has been arrested in Owerri, the Imo State capital.
Ajaero was picked up from the NLC State Council Secretariat by heavily armed policemen in Owerri and taken to an unknown destination.
The Head of Media at the NLC Headquarters, Benson Uper, stated this via a WhatsApp message to Channels Television.
The NLC is leading a statewide protest and strike in Owerri over what it described as lack of respect for workers, unpaid salaries and pensions, amongst others.
According to our source, the labour leader was arrested at the secretariat of the NLC in Imo while he was about to lead an ‘Occupy Imo’ protest slated for today.
The source said the police arrested Ajaero giving reasons that the labour leader has disobeyed an existing court order by the National Industrial Court restraining the NLC and the Trades Union Congress (TUC) from carrying out any protest in the state.
When contacted, the police spokesperson in Imo, Henry Okoye, said he has no information on the arrest of the labour leader yet, saying that he will make the information available as soon as he gets a clear picture of the situation.
Ajaero In Protective Custody — Police
However, the police in the state said Ajaero is in protective custody.
In a statement by the Command’s spokeperson, Okoye Henry, the police said, “In the course of their (labour’s) planning, it was reported that suggestions arose for the lockdown of some essential facilities particularly the airport which led to some workers and other individuals resisting the picketing process leading to scuffles and heated arguments and an eventual attack on the person of the president by a mob.
“Upon receiving this report, the Imo Police Command swiftly deployed police operatives to the scene where the Officer in Charge exercised his operational discretion by taking the NLC President into protective custody at the State Command Headquarters to ensure the protection of his life and that he was not lynched in the scuffle that followed.
“The Commissioner of Police thereafter directed that he should be taken to the Police Medical Services, Owerri, where he would be accorded medical attention as a result of the attack. He has therefore been accorded adequate security cover to proceed on his other legitimate engagements for the day.
“It is however necessary to emphasize the existence of a court injunction from the National Industrial Court of Nigeria holden in Owerri with Suit No. NICN/OW/41/2023 dated 27th October, 2023, barring the NLC from holding the intended protest rally in Owerri.”
Meanwhile, the NLC leadership in Imo has dissociated itself from the protest with reasons that the allegations by the NLC national leadership against the state government were untrue.
Organised Labour Fingers Imo Govt
In a statement on Wednesday, the NLC and TUC national leaderships in Abu7ha accused the Imo State Government of intimidation against trade unions in the state.
However, the Imo State Government said it had no hand in Ajaero’s arrest.
The state’s Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Declan Emelumba, wondered what Ajaero was doing in Owerri in defiance of the order of the court, which warned of severe consequences against disobedience.
He said information at the disposal of government indicated that there might have been a fiasco between lawful workers of Imo State and “lawless invaders” from Abuja, which led to police intervention to maintain the peace.
Read the Organised Labour’s full statement: