The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) says the brutality meted out to Joe Ajaero, the president of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) during a protest in Imo State on Wednesday was an abuse of his fundamental rights. The Executive Secretary, NHRC, Anthony Ojukwu, condemned the brutality against Mr Ajaero, and called for an investigation into the incident with a view to bringing the perpetrators to book.
Mr Ojukwu said this in Abuja on Friday when he reacted to the alleged attack on the NLC President. He said that people’s rights to peaceful protest and freedom of expression should be respected for the progress of human and Nigerian society.
The News Agency of Nigeria ( NAN) reports that the NLC alleged that Mr Ajaero was picked up at the state secretariat of the congress and taken to an unknown location where he was brutalised. Mr Ojukwu condemned the attack, describing it as gross violation of the human rights of Mr Ajaero and other Nigerians who might use protests to register their grievances against constituted authorities. “It is a reprehensible act, a flagrant violation of human rights and an affront to the principles of democracy and the rule of law.
“Brutality on Mr Joe Ajaero, a senior labour leader, represents impunity and a direct attack on the fundamental rights of individuals to associate and express their views and opinions freely, which is the cornerstone of a democratic society like ours,” he said. He reiterated that in a democratic nation like Nigeria, the right to peaceful protest and freedom of expression must be respected and upheld no matter how uncomfortable law enforcement agents feel.
“I am using this medium to call upon law enforcement agencies to exercise restraint and uphold the principles of democracy and respect for human rights when dealing with unarmed civilians while enforcing law and order. “Together, we can build a society where every citizen’s rights and freedoms are safeguarded, respected and tolerated, where acts of violence and intimidation have no place,” he said.
Some thugs and police officers reportedly attacked Mr Ajaero and other members of the NLC who had assembled at the union’s council secretariat last Wednesday ahead of their planned protest against what it called” ag “the persistent and egregious violations of the rights and privileges of workers in Imo State by the state government.”
The national leadership of the NLC later alleged that police operatives arrested Mr Ajaero. The union also accused the state governor, Hope Uzodinma, of mobilizing the thugs and the police officers to attack and arrest the NLC president to frustrate the planned protest in the state. But the police later denied arresting Mr Ajaero, saying they only placed him in protective custody to shield him from attack by the thugs.