Barely two days after they asked their members to stay away from work indefinitely, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) suspended their nationwide strike last night.
The two Labour centres took the decision after a joint National Executive Council (NEC) meeting in Abuja. They directed workers to resume work today.
The suspension of the strike came after a meeting of the Labour leadership with a government team led by National Security Adviser (NSA) Nuhu Ribadu.
TUC Deputy National President Tommy Okon confirmed the development.
Labour had called the strike to protest the alleged assault on NLC President, Joe Ajaero, in Owerri, Imo state capital a fortnight ago.
Ajaero had led workers on a protest against the state government where he was allegedly assaulted during picketing at the airport.
Following the attack, Inspector-General Kayode Egbetokun redeployed Imo State Police Commissioner Mohammed Barde.
The NLC president, who was not seen in public for one week after his photograph with a bruited face surfaced in the social, returned to claim that the attackers, who “beat and dragged him on the floor like a common criminal,” were sponsored by the state government.
Imo State Governor Hope Uzodimma distanced himself from the attack, saying he had nothing to do with it, and even apologised to the Labour leader.
Okon said last night: “The NEC has suspended the strike with effect from tomorrow (today). We have suspended the strike to follow the demands of Labour. All our workers and affiliates are urged to return to work from tomorrow (today).”
After the meeting between the Minister of Labour and Employment, Simon Lalong, NLC officials and President of Trade Union Congress (TUC), Festus Usifo, the Labour leaders said they will table before the Congress the agreements reached at the parley.
At Wednesday’s meeting were Ribadu; Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Nkiruka Onyejeocha, on the federal government’s side, while Usifo and the General Secretary of NLC, Emmanuel Ugboaja, represented the organised Labour.
Lalong told reporters that the meeting was “in respect of the incident that happened in Imo.”
He said: “The meeting came under very heavy security considerations. That’s why we brought the meeting to the office of the National Security Adviser.”
The NSA said attackers of Ajaero have been arrested, added that investigations were still on.
Ribadu, while calling for the suspension of the strike, expressed worries over its impact on the economy and national security.
Ribadu, in a statement by Zakari Mijinyawa, Head of Strategic Communications, in his office, said the Federal Government will not condone lawlessness, as depicted in the attack on Ajaero.
He urged the union to allow ongoing dialogues to be exhausted.
Ribadu assured that results of the ongoing investigation into the attack will be made public as soon as it is concluded.
The statement reads: “The NSA is particularly worried about the implications of the strike action on the livelihood of ordinary Nigerians and its potential impact on economic security and other strategic national interests.
“As attested by the NLC leadership, the NSA immediately intervened on learning about the travails of the President of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Joseph Ajaero, who was assaulted in Owerri, Imo State.
“The NSA regrets the incident and condemns it in its entirety as it was against the rule of law and the principles of freedom of association and expression, subscribed to by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and his administration.
“The Federal Government will never condone such an act. As a fallout of the incident, relevant authorities were directed to conduct thorough investigation into the circumstances surrounding the assault and bring to book the culprits.
“Available update indicates that some arrests have already been made in this regard. The outcome of the investigation will be made public as soon as it is concluded.
“The Federal Government, through the Office of the NSA, therefore appeals to the Labour leadership to call off the current strike action and allow the dialogue process underway to be exhausted.”
NLC: We are on strike to protest against violence
The NLC said it embarked on strike to protest against “emerging culture of state violence, impunity.”
The NLC Head of Information and Public Affairs, Benson Upah, justified the strike in a statement in Abuja.
The NLC said the attack on Ajaero represented the “raising of the stakes in this culture of harassment and intimidation and we have no apology for resisting this through a strike.”
The statement reads: “We would want Nigerians to not lend themselves to the “private matter” narrative being promoted by agents of government as it is intended to divert attention from the real issues.
“Even as no freedom can be greater than the personal liberty of an individual in a popular democracy, which was violently and viciously violated in Imo, what the Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress of Nigeria are fighting through this strike action are serial acts of violence/assault and impunity committed against individuals and organisations by the Nigeria Police Force or under their watchful eye or supervision.
“We make haste to cite three instances here even as there are several others within the brief life of this government.
“We recall the despicable role of the police in the forceful seizure of the offices of NURTW, RTEAN and NUPENG.
“This strike, among other things, is a protest against this reprehensible impunity which is fast becoming the signature of this government.
“The arrest, beating and torture of Comrade Joe Ajaero represents the raising of the stakes in this culture of harassment and intimidation and we have no apology for resisting this through a strike.
“For those not in the know, tyranny begins with the loss of personal liberty through the negative deployment of state power through it’s agents.”