NLC President Taken Into Protective Custody Amid Imo Airport Picketing Dispute

Daud Olatunj

In a dramatic turn of events in Owerri, the capital of Imo state, the police command clarified that they did not arrest Joe Ajaero, the president of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC). 

The situation unfolded on Wednesday when Ajaero was reported to have been taken into custody by heavily armed police officers at the Imo council secretariat of the NLC. 

The headline of a “president’s arrest” quickly grabbed attention, but the reality was different.

Benson Upah, the media head of the NLC, had initially reported the arrest, stating, “President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Comrade Joe Ajaero, was picked up a few minutes ago from NLC state council secretariat by heavily armed policemen in Owerri and taken to an unknown destination.”

This raised concerns and speculation about the motive behind the arrest.

However, the Imo police command swiftly responded to these allegations.

 Henry Okoye, the spokesperson of the command, explained that Joe Ajaero had a heated argument with individuals who opposed the NLC’s attempt to picket the airport in the state. 

To prevent any potential harm to Ajaero during the dispute, the police decided to take him into protective custody at the state police headquarters.

Okoye stated, “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 spokesperson further added, “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 was therefore accorded adequate security cover to proceed on his other legitimate engagements for the day.”

The incident took place amidst the NLC’s announcement that it would ground activities in Imo beginning on November 1, in protest of the alleged violation of workers’ rights and privileges. 

Ajaero had accused the Imo government of not paying some workers for 20 months, further intensifying tensions in the region.

In summary, the situation surrounding Joe Ajaero’s “arrest” was, in fact, a precautionary measure taken by the police to ensure his safety during a dispute related to the NLC’s planned airport picketing. 

The incident highlights the growing tensions between labor unions and state authorities over workers’ rights and unpaid salaries in Imo state.


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