Imo Governor Senator Hope Uzodinma on Thursday provided clarity on the crisis rocking the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) in his State, saying it boiled down to the President of the body, Joe Ajaero, mixing partisanship with NLC affairs.
Uzodinma spoke to the crisis while speaking to journalists at the State House, Abuja, after receiving the flag of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) as the governorship candidate of the party in the November 11 election from President Bola Tinubu.
Uzodinma spoke with two other candidates of the ruling APC, whose elections have been scheduled for the same date Chief Timipre Sylva and Usman Ododo, candidates of the party in Bayelsa and Kogi states respectively.
The NLC President was brutalised on Wednesday in Owerri, Imo State, where was meant to lead a peaceful protest.
The circumstances surrounding the attack became hazy as he alleged being abducted and beaten by police personnel, whereas the police came out to claim its operatives went into the melee to protect the NLC boss, who was under attack.
However, responding to questions from journalists on the Labour crisis in his state, Uzodinma accused Ajaero of being unable to distinguish his role as nation Labour leader and being partisan Imo State indigene.
He said as the Chief Security Officer of the State, he intervened to stop the dissolution of the state chapter of the NLC, whose tenure he said had not expired.
Asked to explain why Ajaero was attacked in the state, Uzodinma said: “I wanted you people to be very careful because there is an attempt to mix up partisan politics or an attempt to blackmail my government but I can tell you that my people are already aware that.
“That was why the NLC Imo State chapter addressed a World Press Conference that what their national leadership is doing is not correct and that they are not going to do any strike or protests and in the process, they decided to dissolve them to put in a caretaker.
“Of course, I’m the Chief Security Officer and I have a responsibility to intervene. I encouraged the national leadership not to dissolve a management team that their tenure has not expired and that was what they did.
“I don’t interfere with Labour matters but I have convinced my workers in Imo State to believe in me and that trust is what opposition parties are trying to fight. But I can assure you that Imo people already have taken that decision. 11th November is by the corner. Come and observe the election”, he said.
On the allegations that he was owing 40 months in salary arrears, Governor Uzodinma said: “I think it is a very good opportunity for me to clear the air on the so called allegations.
“When I came into Imo State as the Governor on January 15th 2020, from 2020 January till date, there’s no month we have not paid salary before 30th. The situation is that before this time, I thought that the trade union is a democratic entity that allows the opinion of people.
“I don’t pay federal civil servants, I only pay Imo State civil servants and I challenged any Imo State civil servants to come out and say that between 2020 January 15th till date, that he has not received salary in any of the month.
“What has happened in this ugly incident that the national president of Nigeria Labour Congress is from Imo State and has not been able to demarcate the difference between being a national leader of an organisation and an interested party in local politics. But God will manage the situation.”
Reminded that the workers were accusing him of reneging on January 2021 agreement aside the backlog of salaries and this might impact his re-election, Uzodimma said: “Well, I still repeat, there’s no worker in Imo State…recall I came in January 2020 and by March, I started paying minimum wage of N30,000 that had been lying there, that previous leadership couldn’t pay. By December 2020 I paid 13th month, the first time on the history of Imp State civil service and I have maintained continuously this 13th month payment as an incentive.
“I automated the payment system. Salaries are now received in an automated manner in Imo State. I brought new innovations, I reformed the civil service. No wonder in the civil service the entire Labour Congress of Imo State chapter endorsed me and I am the only candidate they are supporting in the election. The Nigerian Union of Pensioners endorsed me, from 2007 to 2020, no civil servants in Imo State received gratuity. It is only my government that has now floated bond to pay outstanding gratuities to civil servants.
“So, I understand the sensitivity of this event but I want you people to be very careful because there’s an attempt to mix up partisan politics or an attempt to blackmail my government. But I can tell you that my people are already aware and that was why the Nigerian Labour Congress Imo State chapter, addressed a World Press Conference, that what their national leadership is saying is not correct. And that they are not coming to do any strike or protests. And in the process they decided to resolve them to put in a care taker.
“Of course, I am the chief security officer and I have the responsibility to intervene. I encouraged the national leadership not to devolve the management team that their tenure have not expired and that was what they did.
“I don’t interfere in Labour matters but I have convinced my workers in Imo State to believe in me and is that trust that the opposition parties are trying to fight. But I can assure you that Imo people already have taken their decision. 11th November is by the corner.”