Ajaero: int’l bodies protest attack on union leader

Brutalized Joe Ajaero

●Write ILO, want FG to investigate incidents
●Accuse Nigeria of violation of the principles of Conventions 87 and 98

The attack on the President of Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC, Joe Ajaero by some “thugs” during a protest in Imo State has attracted the attention of some international organizations, which have condemned the assault, while also calling for immediate release of the union leader allegedly held by the Nigerian security agents.

The organizations, the International Trade Union Confederation, ITUC, and Confederazione Generale
Italiana Del Lavoro, CGIL expressed their displeasure over the ordeal of Comrade Ajaero via separate protest letters addressed to the Director General of International Labour Organization, ILO, Gilbert F. Houngbo and the Nigerian Ambassador to Italy, Mfawa Omini Abam, respectively.

According to Salvatore Marra, the CGIL’s
Head, European and International Policies Department, “We have been informed by the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), that its president, Mr. Joe Ajaero, has been unlawfully abducted and taken to an unknown location.

“As we write to you, he is being held incommunicado. Mr. Ajaero has been abducted after having reached the NLC premises to provide legitimate trade union leadership to NLC workers who were
gathering at the state NLC secretariat in Imo State.

According to the information received, the police had also resorted to physical violence to
try to disperse the workers that were gathering in front of NLC premises.

“CGIL stands in solidarity with the NLC and its workers, and we recall that according to ILO
standards, the government has the duty to instruct the police to protect citizens in the course of legitimate trade union activities, and that freedom of association is a fundamental right enshrined in ILO Convention 87 that Nigeria has ratified.

“Nigeria, being a titular member of the Governing Body of the ILO, is bound to protect fundamental principles and rights at work. The use of police violence and the abduction of trade union leaders is a serious attack of human rights.

“We urge your good office to take swift action and call on the police authority in Imo state to immediately release NLC President Joe Ajaero and to further prevent any attack against workers and their trade union leaders.”

In the same vein, the General Secretary of International Trade Union Confederation, ITUC, Luc Triangle, accused Nigeria of violation of the principles of Conventions 87 and 98 and cease these acts of anti-union attacks and discrimination.

The letter dated,
3 November 2023 was entitled “Request for urgent intervention in the Federal Republic of Nigeria regarding the arbitrary arrest and detention of Joe Ajaero, president of the NLC and violence against workers.”

It reads, “We call for your urgent intervention with the Federal Republic of Nigeria following a series of attacks on workers protesting the continuing non-implementation of a freely concluded minimum wage agreement.

On 1 November 2023, workers in Imo State gathered at the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) offices to engage in a protest action demanding the implementation of the agreed minimum wage.

‘The gathering was violently disrupted by Imo State Police ostensibly on the instructions of Governor Hope Uzodimma and Police Commissioner.
Scores of workers were seriously injured by machete wounds and stabbings carried out by forces alleged to have associations with Governor Uzodimma.

“Mobile phones and computers were confiscated, and scores of cars were damaged and smashed. In the violence, the NLC president, Joe Ajaero suffered severe head injuries and was dragged away and taken to an unknown destination by the police. The NLC has since located him, and he is nursing injuries sustained from the violent attack.

“Director-General, this event follows one that occurred 6 September 2023, in which the Imo State’s police force harassed, intimidated, and locked up trade union leaders who were carrying out their lawful duties, monitoring and coordinating a nationwide strike from within the state.

“Then again, on 7 March 2023, the same government’s police force disrupted an NLC conference organised to elect new leadership and left several delegates injured and trade union property damaged. The state’s government then appropriated the NLC conference and installed its own trade union leadership in its name.

“We are deeply concerned about a developing culture of impunity regarding anti-trade union attacks in Nigeria. We call on you to use your good offices to intervene by calling upon the government of Nigeria to respect the principles of Conventions 87 and 98 and cease these acts of anti-union attacks and discrimination.

“The government must be compelled to investigate these incidents and bring the perpetrators to justice.”

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