The International Lawyers Assisting Workers (ILAW) Network has condemned the ‘brutal’ attack on the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Joe Ajaero, in Owerri, the Imo state capital.
Ajaero was allegedly picked up on Wednesday from the NLC State Council Secretariat by heavily armed policemen and taken to an unknown destination.
The Imo State Police Command denied arresting the labour leader, while the NLC and the Trades Union Congress (TUC) threatened to call for an immediate nationwide strike following his arrest.
The ILAW Network, which comprises over 1,100 workers’ rights lawyers and scholars in over 90 countries, including Nigeria, reacted to the incident on Thursday through a letter signed by chairman, Jeffrey Vogt and addressed to the NLC.
“The ILAW Network expresses its serious concern over the physical attacks on workers and the physical attacks and unlawful detention of Joe Ajaero, President of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC),” ILAW said.
“We note that Nigeria has ratified Conventions 87 and 98 of the International Labour Organisation, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
“All of these instruments protect the fundamental right to freedom of association and peaceful assembly and require states to guarantee their free exercise.
“Further, none of the very specific and limited instances where authorities may use force apply here. The violent dispersal of peacefully demonstrating workers and the assault and detention of President Ajaero are in direct violation of Nigeria’s international legal obligations (and its own laws).”
ILAW stated that the violent and illegal detention of President Ajaero is also in direct contravention of Nigeria’s obligations.
It added that the CFA has repeatedly found that the arrest of a union leader for exercising legitimate activities in relation to freedom of association, in this case meeting with union members and surveying the damage of the violent police action, is a violation of that country’s obligations to freedom of association.
“The unlawful temporary detention of President Ajaero constitutes a serious obstacle to the exercise of trade union rights, and is in violation of ILO Conventions 87 and 98,” ILAW said.
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