Affiliates of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), the organised Labour group in the country, have commenced the mobilisation of their members towards an immediate nationwide protest.
The groups, namely oil workers under the platform of the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) and their counterparts in the National Union Electricity Employees (NUEE) have asked their members to be on the alert for a nationwide strike following the attack and brutalisation of Labour leaders, including the NLC President, Joe Ajaero, by the police and thugs working for the Imo State governor, Hope Uzodinma in Owerri, the State capital.
NUPENG President, Prince Williams Akporeha, who condemned the attack of the Labour leaders, described it as an “act of violence and barbarism” that “cannot be accepted in a democracy.”
Ajaero and other Labour leaders were waylaid and viciously attacked by hoodlums on Tuesday while in the State to mobilise workers preparatory to the commencement of a strike action to protest the continued refusal of the Uzodinma administration to settle months of unpaid salaries and allowances to workers in the State.
While in the State, it was leant that hoodlums suspected to be agents agents of the Imo state government waylaid the protesters, beat them up and destroyed their vehicles.
Some of the official were arrested and detained by the police and valuable items found on them flagrantly dispossessed in a manner that highlights a growing reign of impunity and official dissent of opposing views and opinions by the government at the federal and state levels.
In its reaction on Wednesday, NUPENG, in a statement, warned of a decisive action, including an impending nationwide protest if the Imo state government did not order the police to release the arrested Labour leaders and address the grievances of the workers in the state.
Also, the electricity workers union, the constituency the NLC President belongs, is also bracing for a nationwide showdown.
In a letter to the Vice Presidents of NUEE, Zonal Organizing Secretaries, State/Administrative Councils, Chapter Secretaries as well as all members, the Acting General Secretary of NUEE, Dominic Igwebike, notified them of the commencement of mobilisation towards an indefine nationwide strike action over what it called “the abduction of the NLC President, Joe Ajaero in Imo State.”
NUEE said the planned strike action was in response to the “atrocious and inhumane behaviours meted out to our fellow Comrades, and the abduction of the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress by the Imo State Governor and the Policemen of the Imo State Command on Wednesday 1st November 2023.”
The union threatened a total shutdown of the nation if the President of the NLC was not released, and adequate explanation given by the Federal and State Governments.
“To this effect, all National, State and Chapter executives are requested to start the mobilisation of our members in total compliance with this directive.
Please note that withdrawal of Services nationwide commences from 0.00 hours of Thursday, November 2, 2023.
“We cannot be at work, while the President of the NLC is incarcerated, and we cannot be at peace while the rights of the workers in Imo State are being trampled on with utmost impunity,” NUEE declared.
Igwebike said total compliance with the directive to shutdown the nation was the only way forward, as the strength and integrity of their Union were at stake.
The Imo state government is yet to offer any explanation over the ugly incident.
But the State Government has in recent times become notorious for deployment of violence and intimidation to settle dispute with opponents, including workers in the State.
Last year, the government ordered the demolition of the NLC Secretariat in Owerri following a protracted industrial dispute.
Last Tuesday’s attack on the labour leaders signposts the rising tensions that has engulfed the State as it prepares for next Saturday’s gubernatorial elections in the incumbent governor, Hope Uzodinma is seeking a re-election.
Since the controversial outcome of the 2023 general elections, multi-dimensional tensions have pushed the nation on edge, with the people grappling with a complex of socio-economic crises in the form of spiraling, inflation and unemployment as well as Labour crisis, which has necessitated the demand for palliatives by Labour unions to cushion the biting impact on its members.