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Unions protest police brutality against trade unionists in Nigeria

16 November, 2023On 1 November, Joe Ajaero, Nigeria Labour Congress president, who is also the general secretary of the National Union of Electricity Employees, affiliated to IndustriALL, went to Imo State to meet workers and plan protests to curb wage theft after some workers have not been paid their wages for more than 20 months. During the meeting he was arrested by heavily armed police and taken into custody where he was blindfolded and beaten up.

Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission said the attack violated citizens' and trade union rights to freedom of expression.

On 14 November, Nigerian unions went on an indefinite strike to protest the attack on trade union leaders which they described as a threat to freedom of association and trade union rights. However, NLC and the Trade Union Congress Nigeria, suspended the strike the following day after meeting with the national security adviser.

“After the federal government had met our crucial demands to address the distressing abduction and brutalization of the president of the NLC, comrade Joe Ajaero and others, some of the perpetrators have been arrested, and we were given high assurances that all others will be fished out and prosecuted,”

said the unions.

“We reaffirm that workers under the Nigerian Constitution, African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and International Labour Organization conventions particularly Conventions 87 and 98 on the right to freedom of association and collective bargaining, have the right to organize and engage in collective bargaining and social dialogue. It is therefore strange that Governor of Imo State, Hope Uzodimma, will repudiate a 2021 agreement on salaries and pensions,”

said John Adaji, Sub Saharan Africa regional co-chair and president of the National Union of Textile Garment & Tailoring Workers of Nigeria.

“IndustriALL denounces the serious threats to freedom of association, human rights, and trade union rights caused by these physical attacks. It is unacceptable that state authorities are resorting to violence and intimidation instead of engaging in social dialogue to address the legitimate workers concerns that include demands for living wages. These demands have been caused by high inflation and the increasing cost of living following the Federal Government of Nigeria’s introduction of harsh economic policies that are anti-worker and exposing vulnerable communities to poverty,”

said Atle Høie, IndustriALL general secretary.

Photo: Nigerian flag, jbdodane, Flickr