“The allegation is nonsense,” says a spokesperson to Governor Hope Uzodinma.
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) in Imo State has accused the state government of using armed thugs and personnel of the Nigeria Police Force to disrupt the conduct of its elections in the state.
The NLC president, Joe Ajaero, who disclosed this in a statement on Tuesday, also declared the group’s indefinite industrial action in the state.
Mr Ajaero said the NLC had instructed its State Councils across Nigeria to prepare for the State Delegates’ Conference for the election of new leadership in all the council areas of the country.
Some NLC officials were deployed to various states to act as returning officers in the elections billed for last Tuesday, he said.
The NLC president alleged that the Imo State Government “sought to influence the outcome of the elections in the state,” by offering gratifications to the delegates to vote for their “chosen candidates.”
“This meddlesomeness was resisted by the delegates who refused the unholy offerings and baits to vote for their chosen candidates,” he said.
Mr Ajaero claimed that the state government was enraged by the delegates’ rejection of their offerings and resorted to violence ostensibly to disrupt the exercise.
“When it was obvious to the government and their goons that their stooges were going to overwhelmingly lose in the elections, thugs who were armed to the teeth descended on the Delegates inflicting various degrees of injuries on them, chasing them away and carting away materials meant for the conduct of the elections that was supposed to be at the heart of the conference.
“As if that was not enough, security agents led by the police and the so-called State Investigative Bureau invaded the venue and completed the sordid episode,” he stated, insisting that the “blood cuddling” and act of violence on people who gathered for a democratic election was inexcusable.
Continuing, he said, “NLC considers this the height of irresponsibility thus unacceptable and falls far below accepted standards of behaviour by individuals who occupy high offices in Nigeria, especially the government of states.
“It truly does demonstrate the level of decay that has continued to fester in leadership circles in the country. It does also show the level of militarisation that pervades the state from one end to another and we also feel that it may be a serious pointer to the source of the violence in the state which has made the state the epicentre of killings and brigandage in the South-east.”
The NLC president called on “well-meaning Nigerians to prevail on the government of Imo State to mind its business and focus more on rendering good governance to the people and allow us continue setting good examples on how transition of power ought to be”, stressing that the government cannot choose leaders for the NLC.
“The NLC holds the governor and his government responsible for any loss of life in this wanton display of hooliganism against unarmed Nigerian workers who were going about their lawful business of organising a statutory delegates’ conference.
“We call on the Federal Government, especially the security agencies, to call the errant government to order before it turns the state into a graveyard for workers and men of decency. His Excellency the President of the Federal Republic must urgently restrain the government from destroying our hallowed rules of engagement in the Industrial Relations sphere which demands an understanding of the rights and privileges of the social partners,” he added.
He warned that if the situation was not addressed, the NLC would mobilise its members nation-wide to “take action against this violence to avert it from spreading to other parts of the country.”
He asked the Inspector-General of Police, Usman Alkali to “step in to stop the use of his men in unleashing terror on Nigerians” particularly in Imo State just as he demanded that the police should “immediately investigate the bloodletting” against its members in the state.
Declaration of strike
Mr Ajaero also said the group has decided to withdraw its peaceful industrial relations engagement with the government from Wednesday in order to protect NLC members and workers in Imo state from further “exposure to the violence.”
“Since the safety of workers is no longer guaranteed by the government, it behoves us to protect ourselves by staying at home. This therefore directs all workers in Imo State to proceed on indefinite industrial action,” he stated.
Imo govt reacts
Declan Emelumba, the commissioner for information in Imo State, did not respond to calls and a text message seeking comments from him about the allegations.
However, when contacted on Thursday, the spokesperson to Governor Hope Uzodinma of Imo State, Oguike Nwachukwu, refuted the allegations.
Mr Nwachukwu told PREMIUM TIMES that there was no such violence against the NLC members in the state.
“The allegation is nonsense,” he said, without giving details.
The governor’s spokesperson suggested that members of the NLC were not complying with the directives on industrial action in the state.