The Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) has strongly condemned the attack on Joe Ajaero, the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), and called for the perpetrators behind the assault to be brought to justice.
The President of PENGASSAN, Festus Osifo and Secretary, Lumumba Okugbawa, in a statement released on Friday, described the attack on Ajaero as an existential threat to the trade union movement in Nigeria.
PENGASSAN further stated that the attack on Ajaero was a blatant violation of human rights and an assault on the principles of democracy, freedom of expression and association.
Recall that Ajaero was arrested in Owerri, the capital of Imo State on Wednesday, during a protest by workers in Imo State.
Workers in the state had protested over an alleged “serial and habitual abuse and violation” of their rights by the state government.
Police said Ajeoro was taken into custody for his protection, but the NLC said he was brutalised after his arrest.
The Imo State Governor, Hope Uzodimma, in his reaction to the development, accused the NLC leader of mixing politics with unionism.
PENGASSAN in reaction to the development wrote, “Violence against union leaders or any individuals fighting for the rights of workers is not only an attack on them but also undermines the fundamentals of social dialogue and activism. These acts of violence seek to silence the voices of those who speak up for the vulnerable and marginalized, and they must be vehemently condemned by society as a whole.
“PENGASSAN demands that the authorities conduct a thorough investigation into this cowardly attack and bring the perpetrators to justice. We call on law enforcement agencies to ensure the safety and security of all workers, activists and union leaders, providing them with the necessary protection to carry out their essential duties without fear of reprisal.
“We also urge civil society organizations, trade unions, and citizens to stand in solidarity with NLC and Comrade Joe Ajaero and to denounce this act of violence. It is crucial that we collectively reject any attempts to suppress voices that advocate for the rights and well-being of workers and fight for a more equitable society.
“Our noble Association stands in solidarity with our ally in the struggle, Comrade Joe Ajaero, and expresses deep concern for his well-being and recovery. We will continue to work tirelessly to support the rights of workers, advocate for social justice, and combat any form of violence or repression that seeks to curtail the progress we have made thus far.
“All PENGASSAN members are hereby put on red alert as the days ahead will be stormy and tumultuous. We urge all trade unions and the two labour centres to respond to this ugly act in a very drastic way because injury to one is truly an injury to all.”