The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has urged the Imo State residents to stock their basic food for survival as the union prepares for an indefinite strike.
The labour union had on Tuesday accused officials of the of the Governor Hope Uzodimma’s government of disrupting its state congress and unleashing mayhem on workers exercising their rights to elect their leaders.
The NLC president, Ajaero, in a statement, had declared the union’s indefinite industrial action in the state.
Ajaero said the union 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.
He 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.
The president 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.”
But in a statement made available to journalists at the weekend, Ajaero said the union was preparing to shutdown the state with indefinite strike.
But in a swift reaction, the Imo State Government alleged that it had classified information indicating that Ajaero was in a secret agreement with some collaborators to use his office to actualise the governorship ambition of his kinsman.
Ajaero said the state government had deliberately terrorised the residents through some negative actions of operatives endowed with the state’s powers.
He also accused state Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Declan Emelumba, of peddling falsehood.
The NLC boss alleged that the Imo State government had turned the once-prided “Eastern Heartland” into a toxic and highly unpleasant environment.
Ajaero said: “Hobbesian state of nature, a state that once prided itself as the Eastern Heartland, has become prevalent, exposing not just workers in the state but institutions and individuals to the most horrendous of scare, fear, and violence in their daily activities.
“In the pursuit of our legitimate strike action to restore sanity to the state’s industrial relations sphere, we wish to advise that those traveling to Imo State through the airport to look for other alternatives, those that make use of petroleum products should make efforts to seek alternatives and those that use electricity to seek other options outside the national grid.
“We are resolved to press home our demands, and until these infractions are remedied, we will continue escalating the industrial action till the government is compelled to show reason and restore meaningful and effective dialogue in the state,” Ajaero explained.
He gave some of the reasons for the industrial action, including 20 months arrears of salaries owed to some workers stigmatiSed as ghost workers; the declaration of about 11,000 workers in the state as ghost workers; intimidation and harassment of trade union leaders; and continued use of thugs and instruments of violence against workers in the state among others.
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 Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Emelumba, the said relative, a serial governorship aspiration spanning PDP and APGA, had already picked the form of one of the political parties for his ambition.
Emelumba said at the meeting that another relative of Ajaero and the governorship aspirant was selected as the arrowhead of the battle as the new NLC chairman in the state.
The commissioner noted that the plan was for Ajaero and his relatives to unleash strikes on the state administration 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.
Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja and Amby Uneze in Owerri