By Michael Oche
African Regional Organisation of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC-Africa) has described Wednesday’s assault by men of the Nigerian police on president of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Joe Ajaero, as troubling.
Comrade Joe Ajaero was abducted and brutalised by security operatives while leading a protest in Owerri. He was hospitalised after the incident which has been widely condemned.
ITUC-Africa in a letter by its General Secretary, Kwasi Adu-Amankwah and addressed to Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu, said the use of violence and intimidation against trade unions and their leaders is a dangerous and unacceptable practice that has no place in a democratic society like Nigeria.
The ITUC-Africa which is the umbrella body of trade unions in Africa with 102 affiliates, including the NLC noted that it is deeply troubled by the reports of “the brutal and heavy-handed tactics employed by the Imo State Government and the State Police Commissioner.”
The Regional Organisation while condemning the assault on Ajaero said it rejects this use of force and the patent disregard for decorum, civility and dialogue in settling industrial differences.
“the abduction of Comrade Ajaero is not only a grave violation of human rights but also a direct assault on the principles of justice, democracy and the rule of law.”
“The violence and injuries inflicted on innocent workers, the destruction of property, and the incommunicado detention of the NLC President are profoundly troubling and require urgent attention,” ITUC-Africa informed president Tinubu in its letter.
The ITUC-Africa said it is concerned about “a steady and dangerous decline of civility in managing industrial relations in the country” adding that “this decline is owed mainly to the reckless actions of Nigerian politicians who abandon their oaths of office as stewards of their constituents and constituencies. These politicians intentionally ignore civil paths and options for resolving industrial disputes caused chiefly by their bad decisions and actions.
Instead, they choose to lord the powers of their offices in imperial and illegitimate ways.”
The organisation called on the Nigerian government to engage in a meaningful dialogue with the Nigeria Labour Congress and its leaders to address the legitimate concerns of Nigerian workers, respecting the agreements and decisions that have been negotiated and reached.
It also asked President Tinubu to guarantee the proper medical treatment for the injuries Ajaero has sustained during this unfortunate incident and adequate compensation for social, physical and psychological damages to his person and personality.
“Mr. President, as the Chief Security Officer of the federation, it is our firm belief that your office plays a pivotal role in arresting this dangerous descent into lawlessness.
” We are convinced that upholding the rule of law and guaranteeing the protection of the rights of every Nigerian citizen would help to halt and reverse this worrisome tide. We, therefore, call on Mr. President to use the instrument of your office and goodwill to intervene in this matter promptly,” the letter noted.