The Joe Ajaero faction of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), has called on the Federal Ministry of Labour to immediately sanction the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA) and its Director General, Olusegun Oshinowo for gross violation of the tenets and statutes governing engagement as social partners.
Comrade Ajaero alleged that the NECA, under the leadership of Oshinowo had engaged the use of armed thugs on the workers who went on a peaceful protest to NECA to draw attention of the public to the continued enslavement of workers in Nigeria especially in the banking sector by employers.
He claimed that “in the course of our engagement, NECA, led by Oshinowo brought in dangerously armed thugs who beat up journalists inflicting various degrees of body injuries on workers and onlookers and stole various items including media cameras, phones, money and other personal belongings.”
Ajaero added: “This brazen act of impunity against the principles of engagement in the sector is condemnable and negates peaceful and cordial engagement within the Industrial Relations space in Nigeria and sets a bad and dangerous precedence for the sector.”
To this end, he called on the employers to quickly make their position “on this national scandal,” that has eroded the credibility of NECA known to Nigerians.
He said the employers, working in conjunction with the security agencies should immediately arrest “the hired thugs who were the harbingers of the violence on peaceful workers.”
Ajaero expressed surprise at the role played by the security agencies especially the Police and the DSS, regretting that they were heavily present during the unfortunate incident but refused to intervene on time to save lives and properties.
“We had felt that we notified the security agencies of our intentions so as to ensure the protection of lives and property but this, they surprisingly failed to do leading to the injuries and losses sustained by workers and Nigerians who came out in solidarity with us,” he said.
He gave Federal Government 14 working day, from Friday, to resolve the problem in the banking industry and arrest the thugs or face action and protest that would shut down the economy.
Comrade Ajaero said: “That we give the federal Government through its relevant agencies (14) fourteen working Days from today within which to bring the embarrassing illegal, abusive violations of workers’ rights to collective bargaining and fair treatment currently going on in the Banking sector to an end and arrest all the thugs that were used in attacking workers and Nigerians that were on a peaceful protest.
“We shall be forced to commence action to shut down the economy if after the expiration of this ultimatum nothing was done to meet these demands.”
But in its reaction, NECA denied alleged involvement in the use of thugs and hoodlums to dislodge the illegal picketing of its premises by Comrade Joe Ajaero-led NLC.
While reacting to Nigerian Tribune enquiry, the Director General of NECA, Mr. Olusegun Oshinowo said: “NECA is a law abiding organisation that will not resort to lawlessness to dislodge lawlessness. This, actually, informed our decision to invite the Police and the DSS to protect us.”
He said: “Our own investigation on the identity of those that came to dislodge Ajaero and his cohorts has revealed three possibilities as follows:
“In-fighting among hoodlums and thugs hired by Ajaero over distribution of money paid them to carry out the illegal picket.
“Another group of Ajaero’s hired hoodlums who felt left out of the largesse, after an initial mobilisation, and then decided to undermine the illegal picketing.
“A counter action by the legal and recognised NLC to stop Ajaero from further acting in the name of NLC and parading himself its President.”
He added: “These are all possible leads as we welcome the appropriate authority to investigate the cause of this mayhem, which ordinarily would not have occurred if Ajaero has respected the industrial relations laws of Nigeria and the law enforcement agencies present in NECA have acted decisively by dispersing the picketers who were very unruly and in fact paralysed vehicular and human movement in the entire Ikeja neighbourhood.
“We again affirm that trade unionism and union immunity is not a license for anyone to brazenly trample on the rights of other economic actors and breach public order.”
Mr. Oshinowo stated further: “In the light of the current decadent state of Industrial Relations practice in Nigeria as evidenced by the kind of action perpetrated against NECA by the Joe Ajaero’s illegal faction of the Union, NECA would once again want to call on the Federal Government of Nigeria as a matter of urgency to summon a summit of the social partners for the purpose of setting in motion the much-needed reform of our Industrial Relations’ System.”