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We saved NLC president from mob attack - Police deny arrest

Contrary to reports, Police said it didn’t arrest the NLC president but took him away for protection following an attempt to lynch him.

NLC President, Joe Ajaero after an alleged mob attack in Imo State during Wednesday protest. [Vanguard]

On Wednesday, November 1, 2023, news broke that Ajaero was arrested by heavily armed policemen and whisked away from the NLC State Council Secretariat in Owerri, the Imo State capital, to an unknown location.

The incident occurred during a protest led by the NLC leadership across the state to register their displeasure over what they termed as a lack of respect for workers' rights, unpaid salaries, and poor working conditions, among other concerns.

The union had threatened to carry out a widespread protest, which would serve as a prelude to a statewide strike to register the workers' grievances against the Governor Hope Uzodimma-led government.

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Meanwhile, Benson Uper, Head of Media at the NLC Headquarters, alleged on Wednesday that Ajaero had been arrested by security operatives in Imo.

Reacting to this in a statement by the state police spokesman, Okoye Henry, the Imo State Commissioner of Police CP Mohammed Ahmed said, contrary to reports, Ajaero was taken into custody to save him from a mob attack.

According to the police, a scuffle ensued when the NLC attempted to lockdown some essential facilities in the state for mobilisation for the protest, leading to resistance from workers and other individuals who descended on the labour leader.

Upon receiving the report, the police said officers were deployed to the scene, and they decided to take Ajaero into protective custody to ensure the protection of his life.

"It is pertinent to state that the NLC President was in Owerri as part of arrangements of the Congress to mobilize workers for a mega protest rally in the state.

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"In the course of their planning, it was reported that suggestions arose for the lockdown of some essential facilities particularly the airport which led to some workers and other individuals resisting the picketing process leading to scuffles and heated arguments and an eventual attack on the person of the president by a mob.

"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 statement partly read.

Henry said the NLC president was taken to a police medical facility in Owerri for medical attention and later provided with a security cover to proceed on his legitimate engagements for the day.

However, the police noted that there's an existing court order barring the NLC from holding the proposed protest in Owerri, urging all concerned parties to comply with court directives to avoid disrupting the security arrangements in the state.

"It is however necessary to emphasize the existence of a court injunction from the National Industrial Court of Nigeria holden in Owerri with Suit No. NICN/OW/41/2023 dated 27th October, 2023, barring the NLC from holding the intended protest rally in Owerri.

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"The Commissioner of Police, Imo State Police Command, CP Mohammed Ahmed Barde, psc (+), therefore urges all concerned parties to ensure compliance with the Court directives so as to avoid jeopardizing the current security arrangements on Owerri and other parts of Imo State, even as the State gears up for the forthcoming electioneering process on 11th November 2023," the statement added.

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