NLC President Ajaero

WE totally deplore the violence and bodily injury inflicted on the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Comrade Joe Ajaero, while in police custody after the chaotic encounter between Labour and the Police in Owerri on Thursday, November 2, 2023.

Ajaero had led workers out in a mass action to protest what was described as the “serial abuses of workers’ rights” by the Imo State Government. In particular, the NLC claimed that workers in some sectors in the state were being owed up to 20 months salaries. Several efforts to dialogue failed because, according to the NLC, the state government always reneged. But the state governor, Senator Hope Uzodimma, denies “owing anyone”.

The most worrisome aspect of the violence meted to Ajaero was that the Police said they did not arrest him but merely took him into “protective custody”. With the kind of obvious injuries inflicted on him while he was with them, we question the manner of “protection” the Police extended to Ajaero.

Though the government and Labour sometimes clash, it is rare for the number one organized Labour leader in the country to be so battered as Ajaero was in Imo State. This is unacceptable. He could easily have been killed, being an elderly  person of small physical frame.

Whoever ordered that beating obviously did not reckon with the consequences of his action. Ajaero was the President of the Nigerian Union of Electricity Employees, NUEE, before he emerged as NLC President. The workers of the Enugu Electricity Distribution Company, EEDC, have since plunged Imo State into darkness. The citizenry is left to suffer the consequences of the rash actions of their elected leaders.

That Ajaero could be so dastardly battered in his own state of origin says much about the bad blood that existed between him and the state authorities under Governor Uzodimma. We doubt that anyone would have summoned the guts to do the same if the Labour leader was from another part of the country.

We remind the Police that the battering meted out to Ajaero in their custody was shameful and a big stain on its image. The Police must be reminded that it is the foremost law enforcement institution mandated by the constitution to protect lives and property. It has a duty to ensure that those in its custody remain safe until they are charged or released.

Descending on an unarmed, law-abiding Nigerian in this manner is one of the misbehaviors of the police which led to the post-EndSARS violence of 2020/2021, especially in the South-East. Policemen in uniform or on duty became targets of faceless gunmen. Policemen lived in fear for their lives. Is Police memory so short?

Ajaero should approach the courts for justice to seek redress for a violation of his rights.