The recent developments in Imo State, Nigeria, have sparked a major showdown between the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC), and the state government. The primary reason for the conflict is the assault on NLC President, Joe Ajaero, and other labour leaders. This incident has led to the declaration of an immediate total strike in Imo State, with plans for a nationwide strike if their demands are not met. The strike is a response to several grievances, including the assault, outstanding salary arrears, the wrongful declaration of workers and pensioners as ‘ghost’ employees and retirees, and non-compliance with the minimum wage act. This declaration is a significant escalation of tensions and has the potential to impact various sectors, including flights, fuel supplies, and electricity.
The leadership of NLC and TUC, which addressed a joint press conference in Abuja, on Tuesday, said they would begin a nationwide strike if by Tuesday, November 14, their demands were not met by the federal and Imo state governments.
Addressing a press conference shortly after a joint emergency National Executive Council (NEC) meeting of NLC and TUC in Abuja, President of TUC, Festus Osifo, described the move by organised labour as a national action on Imo State. The unions condemned what they described as “systematic intimidation of trade unions and trade union leaders, dismantling of trade union structures, regular bullying and beating of workers, and denying them of access to the fruits of their labour.”
Among the demands made by NLC and TUC were that the federal government should immediately order the redeployment and investigation of the Imo State Commissioner of Police; sack the Area Commander and police officers and men involved in the attack and brutalisation of Ajaero and other workers in Imo State; and immediately arrest and prosecute Adviser on Special Duties to Imo State Governor for allegedly supervising the brutalisation of Ajaero. The NLC president was abducted by officers and men of the Imo State Police Command.
The police came in a convoy of vehicles and gun trucks, hooded and armed to the teeth. Ajaero was blind folded, beaten to pulp, brutalised, humiliated, and violated, and taken to an unknown destination, where he was subjected to more battering and torture as well as threatened with death before help came his way via the National Security Adviser who ordered his immediate release.
The unions have demanded the immediate withdrawal of services and the shutdown of Imo State, with a call for all workers and affiliates to ensure compliance. Additionally, the unions have ordered the cessation of all flights into and out of Imo State, as well as the halting of fuel supplies and electricity. The implications of the strike are far-reaching, with the unions threatening a nationwide strike if their demands are not met.
The declaration of the strike in Imo State represents a critical moment in the ongoing struggle between the labour unions and the government. It reflects deep-seated grievances and a determination to hold the authorities accountable for their actions. The unions’ demands for justice, fairness, and the protection of workers’ rights have set the stage for a high-stakes confrontation that will test the government’s willingness to address the concerns of the labour unions and uphold labour rights in Nigeria.