THE INTERNATIONAL Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), has written a strongly worded letter to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, while condemning “the arbitrary arrest and detention of NLC President Joe Ajaero by Imo State Governor, Hope Uzodinma and Police Commissioner”.
In the letter, dated November 2, 2023, with reference code HTUR/ZM, which was obtained by National Record Friday evening, ITUC told President Tinubu that it continued to “see a surge in acts of anti-union discrimination and violent attacks on trade unions and their members since your government came to power in May 2023,” a concern the organisation noted it had previously expressed in a letter to the president, dated 29th September 2023.
The letter, signed by ITUC’s General Secretary, Luc Triangle, and entitled; “ITUC condemns the arbitrary arrest and detention of NLC President Joe Ajaero by Imo State Governor, Hope Uzodinma and Police Commissioner”, the 191 million-member global union with members in 167 countries, including Nigeria, urged the Tinubu “government to respect, both in law and in practice, the rights of trade unions as provided for under the ILO Convention on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise, 1948 (No.87) and the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining, 1949 (No.98) to which the Federal Republic of Nigeria is a party.”
The ITUC particularly draws the attention of the Nigerian government to Article 3 of ILO Convention 87 which it said “calls on the public authorities to “…refrain from any interference which would restrict this right or impede the lawful exercise thereof,”.
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The organisation further stated: “The ITUC demands the immediate and unconditional release of Joe Ajaero and all workers held in detention.
“We further call upon your government to ensure that Imo State and its governor respect the obligations voluntarily accepted by Nigeria by virtue of its Membership of the ILO and ratification of C87 and 98.
“Your government must ensure that there is no impunity [sic] for those who perpetrate violence against workers and their organisations while they exercise their legitimate trade union rights.”
The ITUC noted that it will bring “this deteriorating situation regarding the respect for trade union rights in your country to the attention of the Director-General of the ILO.”
OATUU condemns attack, threatens to escalate matter continentally
Meanwhile a number of African trade union organisations have sent solidarity message to the NLC over the attack, expressing their revulsion and condemnation of the ruthless attack.
The Organisation of Trade Unions of West Africa (OTUWA) had earlier in a statement said the assault on the NLC President is horrific and therefore indicative of an “all-time fascistic and brutal low in labour relation” in Nigeria.
In its solidarity message to the NLC, the Organisation of African Trade Union Unity (OATUU) expressed dismay and astonishment on the news of the attack.
Describing the incident as “embarrassing, undemocratic and contrary to the rule of law and the respect of human and trade unions rights as stipulated in the Nigerian constitution and the ILO Core Conventions,” OATUU called on President Tinubu “to bring to book and expedite justice to the perpetrators of such despicable acts in this time and age to forestall such occurrence in the [future].
The solidarity message, signed by OATUU’s Secretary General, Arezki Mezhoud, also called on the Imo State government to provide proper medical treatment to the President of NLC and all trade unionists who were injured in that cruel incident.
“We urge the Imo State government to embrace social dialogue and reach out to the NLC leadership to resolve the state workers’ grievances.
“Consequently, we unequivocally want to express our solidarity with the Imo State workers, their leaders as well as the leadership of the NLC and the entire Nigerian workers.
“We shall mobilise our affiliates in the 55 countries all over Africa in support with the struggle of the Nigeria Labour Congress against the Imo State government where definite solutions are not found,” Mezhoud stated.
Ghana-TUC Asks Nigeria Govt to investigate, punish perpetrators
In its reaction and solidarity contained in a press statement, the Trades Union Congress of Ghana calls on the Nigerian government to “investigate these brutalities meted out to Comrade Ajaero and punish the perpetrators in accordance with law.”
The statement, signed by Dr Yaw Baah, Ghana-TUC’s Secretary General, noted that as a “civilised country and the most powerful country in the West African Region…, such atrocities against trade union leaders and union activists should not be condoned.”
It further noted: “We at the TUC (Ghana), will support our comrades at NLC in whatever action they will take to ensure that the authorities in Imo State account for these brutalities against Comrade Ajaero and other union leaders in Nigeria.”
Nigerian Govt should desist from setting negative anti-union precedencies on the continent- ZCTU
For the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), in a press release issued on Friday, November 3, 2023, it was with “shock and disbelief” that it received the news of the abduction and brutality.
The press release, signed by the Secretary General of ZCTU, Japhet Moyo, described the incident as a flagrant violation of the basic principles of labour law and ILO Convention 87 on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise.
The release, entitled; “Abduction of the president of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC); Comrade Joe Ajaero by the State,” reads:
“The conduct of the Nigerian state is in flagrant violation of the basic principles of labour law and ILO Convention 87 on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise. The right to strike forms the chassis of Freedom of Association and it is essential that workers the world over assert collectively this inalienable entitlement without fear of intimidation and persecution.
“Protest actions against government social and economic policy, and against negative corporate practices, form part of the basic civil liberties whose respect is essential for the meaningful exercise of trade union rights in any country. Governments are expected to uphold and provide the necessary frameworks to engage with labour and business on an equal footing, and thus states have an obligation to protest this right and not to interfere with its exercise. Protecting the right to strike is not merely about governments fulfilling their legal obligations but about them creating democratic and equitable and sustainable societies.
“We welcome the news that the NLC President has since been release by his abductors and is currently receiving medical attention. ZCTU will solidly support all the NLC actions to get justice and accountability of all actors and enablers of this abduction.
“We call on the Nigerian government to uphold the rule of law and desist from setting negative anti-union precedencies on the continent.”