The Nigeria Labour Congress has accused the police of beating up its President, Joe Ajaero after he was arrested in Imo State on Wednesday afternoon.
NLC’s Head of Media and Publicity Benson Upah said this in a statement, confirming the release of the Mr Ajaero.
He said, “Contact was made with Congress President, Comrade Joe Ajaero this evening around 1530 hours at the Police Hospital in Owerri from where he was taken to Federal Medical Centre, Owerri where he is receiving medical attention.”
The police had said Mr Ajeoro was taken into custody for his protection, but the NLC said he was brutalised after his arrest.
“Thoroughly brutalised, his (Ajeoro’s) right eye at the time of contact was completely shut,” Mr Ujah said.
“Ajaero who said little stated that immediately after his arrest, he was beaten up and blindfolded and taken to an unknown destination where more brutalisation took place, sometimes with bottles.”
Mr Ajaero’s phones, money and other personal effects were taken from him and have not been returned to him, according to Mr Ujah.
He was picked up by the police at the NLC secretariat in Owerri, the Imo State capital, on Wednesday.
Mr Ajaero was in the state for the NLC’s statewide protest and strike over what the union described as a lack of respect for workers, unpaid salaries and pensions, and other issues.
As news of the development spread with the NLC accusing the Police of abducting its leader, the Imo State Police Command issued a statement, explaining that Mr Ajaero was picked up for his safety.
A statement by the spokesperson of the Command, ASP Okoye Henry, read in part, “It is pertinent to state that the NLC President was in Owerri as part of arrangements of the Congress to mobilise workers for a mega protest rally in the state.
“In the course of their planning, it was reported that suggestions arose for the lockdown of some essential facilities particularly the airport which led to some workers and other individuals resisting the picketing process leading to scuffles and heated arguments and an eventual attack on the person of the president by a mob.
“Upon receiving this report, the Imo Police Command swiftly deployed police operatives to the scene where the Officer in Charge exercised his operational discretion by taking the NLC President into protective custody at the State Command Headquarters to ensure the protection of his life and that he was not lynched in the scuffle that followed.
“The Commissioner of Police thereafter directed that he should be taken to the Police Medical Services, Owerri, where he would be accorded medical attention as a result of the attack. He has therefore been accorded adequate security cover to proceed on his other legitimate engagements for the day.”
The police spokesperson also explained that a National Industrial Court injunction dated October 27, 2023, barred the NLC from holding the planned rally.
Its position is, however, in conflict with that of the NLC which believes, Mr Ajaero was brutalised after his arrest and not before.
’No Hand In Ajaero’s Arrest’
Meanwhile, the Imo State Government has said it has nothing to do with the arrest.
The Imo State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Declan Emelumba, described those accusing the government of being behind the arrest as “perennial mischief makers always crying wolf where there is none” in a statement.
Like the police, he said the planned strike in the State had been stopped by the National Industrial Court in Owerri and that “makes the planned action illegal”.
According to the commissioner, as a result of the injunction, the Imo State chapter of NLC announced that it was pulling out of the strike.
Accusing Mr Ajaero of defying a court order, he said “information at the disposal of government indicated that there might have been a fiasco between lawful workers of Imo State and lawless invaders from Abuja, which led to police intervention to maintain the peace”.