By Enyichukwu Enemanna
The President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) Joe Ajaero on Friday made his first public appearance after he was brutalized last week in Imo State, South East Nigeria during a protest to demand payment of workers in the state.
Imo is one of the states slated for off-season election on Saturday, where the governor who has been accused of having a hand in Ajaero’s ordeal if seeking re-election.
Ajaero was during the protest whisked away by officers of the Nigeria Police Force in Imo command to an unknown destination but was released hours later with bruises, an indication that he was physically assaulted.
Narrating his ordeal to newsmen in Abuja on Friday, the labour leader said police operatives handed him over to some suspected thugs for beating, an experience he said left him traumatized.
Adorned in dark shade to cover his swollen eyes, Ajaero said the kind of beating he received after security agents handed him over to the thugs was better imagined.
“I can’t explain the beating I received. They tied my hands and dragged me on the floor like a common criminal. I am not even a card-carrying member of any political party as alleged,” he stated.
The assaulted labour leader said before NLC which has threatened a nationwide strike from Tuesday embarked on Imo protest, all security agencies were notified in order to protect the demonstrators.
Imo State government has made a belated apology to the labour leader but insists it has no hand in his ordeal.
The government instead accused him of mixing unionism with politics, alleging that he is supporting the Labour Party candidate, Sen. Attan Achonu in the Saturday’s governorship poll.
The police in Imo State has repeatedly said it did not arrest Ajaero but took him into protective custody to save him from a mob attack.
“The Imo State Police Command wishes to clarify some sketchy reports alleging the arrest of the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Comrade Joe Ajaero, in Owerri.
“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 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”, a statement issued by Imo Police Public Relations Officer, ASP Okoye Henry read.