As the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) prepares for an indefinite strike, it has asked the citizens of Imo State to stock up on essential food items.
On Tuesday, the labor union accused the government of Governor Hope Uzodimma of disrupting its state congress and unleashing chaos on workers exercising their right to pick their leaders.
In a statement, the NLC president, Ajaero, declared the union’s indefinite strike across the state.
Ajaero stated that the union has urged its State Councils throughout Nigeria to prepare for the State Delegates Conference for the election of new leadership in all council regions of the nation.
He said that the Imo State Government “attempted to influence the outcome of the state’s elections” by bribing delegates to vote for their “preferred candidates.”
“The delegates resisted this interference by refusing the unholy presents and bribes to vote for their preferred candidates,” he stated.
The president asserted that the state government resorted to violence to apparently disrupt the exercise after the delegates rejected their offerings.
“When it became clear to the government and their goons that their stooges were going to lose overwhelmingly in the elections, armed thugs descended on the delegates, inflicting various degrees of injuries on them, chasing them away, and carting away election materials that were supposed to be the focus of the conference,”But, in a statement made accessible to journalists over the weekend, Ajaero stated that the union was planning an indefinite strike that would shut down the state.
In a rapid response, however, the Imo State Government asserted that it obtained classified material showing that Ajaero was in a covert deal with a group of collaborators to use his post to realize the gubernatorial ambitions of a relative.
Ajaero asserted that the state government had purposefully terrorized its citizens by the activities of agents vested with official authority.
Mr. Declan Emelumba, state commissioner for information and strategy, was also accused of spreading misleading information.
The head of the NLC claimed that the government of Imo State had transformed the once-proud “Eastern Heartland” into a poisonous and extremely uncomfortable atmosphere.
Ajaero stated, “A state that once took pride in being the Eastern Heartland has developed a Hobbesian state of nature, subjecting not just workers in the state but also institutions and individuals to the most horrifying terror, fear, and violence in their daily operations.”
In pursuit of our legitimate strike action to restore sanity to the state’s industrial relations sphere, we advise those traveling to Imo State through the airport to seek alternatives, those who use petroleum products to seek alternatives, and those who rely on electricity to seek alternatives outside the national grid.
Ajaero added, “We are determined to pursue our demands, and unless these violations are rectified, we will escalate the industrial action until the administration is forced to demonstrate reason and restore real and effective discourse in the state.”
Among others, he cited 20 months of unpaid wages owed to workers stigmatized as ghost workers; the declaration of approximately 11,000 workers in the state as ghost workers; intimidation and harassment of trade union leaders; and the continued use of thugs and instruments of violence against workers in the state.
However, the state government said it had classified information indicating that the Ajaero was in a secret political agreement with some collaborators to use his office to actualise the governorship ambition of his kinsman.
According to the state government, the agreement was reached three weeks ago at Emekuku in Owerri North Local Government Area, where Ajaero agreed to work to destabilise the administration of Governor Hope Uzodimma.
According to the state’s Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Emelumba, the aforementioned relative, whose governorship ambitions have spanned both the PDP and APGA, has already chosen a political party for his ambitions.
Emelumba stated during the meeting that another relative of Ajaero and the gubernatorial candidate had been chosen as the state’s new NLC chairman.
The commissioner revealed that Ajaero and his relatives intended to launch attacks on the state government in an effort to make it unpopular.
“From the information available to us, the strike declared by Ajaero is derived from the Emekuku agreement and, therefore, politically motivated. Also, to ensure that the plot succeeds at all costs, Ajaero has been moving from one labour leader to the other lobbying for support,” Emelumba alleged.
He said that it was because of the haste to activate the implementation of the agreement that Ajaero threw all caution to the wind by unilaterally imposing a Caretaker NLC Chairman on the state and declaring strike without any notice to the state government as demanded by Labour laws.
Meanwhile, Governor Uzodimma yesterday sacked the state Commissioner for Labour and Productivity, Ford Ozumba.
The Commissioner for Information, Declan Emelumba, in a statement yesterday, said the sacking was with immediate effect.
Uzodimma was said to have directed Ozumba to hand over all necessary documents to the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Labour and Productivity immediately.
While there was no reason given for the sack, it may not be unconnected with the rift between the NLC and the governor.