Call Allen Onyema of Air Peace to Order – NLC

Press Statemeent

Call Allen Onyema of Air Peace to Order*

We at the Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria are disappointed by the utterances and behaviour of Mr Allen Onyema, CEO of Air Peace who has put his personal business interest above the lives, welfare, safety, freedom and businesses of Imo State people.

We had thought Mr Onyema was a reasonable citizen but like the rest of them, he has shown his hand rather too early.

His desperate attempt to personalise the strike action (by over 70 unions) and present Comrade Joe Ajaero as scuttling the business interest of a fellow Igbo is a familiar refrain of scoundrels who take refuge in primordial sentiments.

We find it disgusting that rather than address the fundamental issues that led to this avoidable strike action, Mr Onyema has called for sanctioning of Comrade Ajaero and manacling of the Labour Unions but such is the psyche of those who come upon wealth suddenly or have wealth thrust upon them.

If the ordinary Nigerian has knowledge of the rights of citizens to peaceful protest as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution (as amended), corpus of Labour Laws, and African Charter on Fundamental Rights, Mr Onyema, a Lawyer is presumed to be even more knowledgeable about the operation of these laws/rights.

How ever, it inevitably puts a question mark on his claims to his credentials if he is bereft of this basic knowledge of the law.

The same law allows for unionisation of the staff of Air Peace Airline which have been denied this basic right by Onyema from 2016 to date. In light of this, Mr Onyema is given two weeks to allow the staff of Air Peace to unionise. He should equally calculate and remit check-off dues from 2016 to date. If he fails to do this, he should be prepared to keep a date with the entire labour movement soon.

The society Onyema canvasses is that of unquestioning submission to illegal acts, impunity, crime, and bestiality. While this might be helpful to him in the pursuit of his wealth, we find it sordid, immoral and dishonourable. We assure him such society has no place in our democracy as we continue to hold leaders to account for their conduct.

Mr Onyema says he lost N700 million Naira in two hours of the strike action. That is a lot of money by any standards as that means he makes N5 billion a day and N150 billion a month on the average. We would want to know how much tax he pays. The last time he made tax returns was in 2020. Ordinarily, what he paid should be in the public domain but it is not. We therefore invite the tax authorities to avail us and the general public the tax returns of Air Peace. We also ask them to note the earnings of Air Peace as proclaimed by its owner.

It was so convenient for Onyema to be hysterical about his financial lossess that he forgot to mention the violence his goons visited on workers including the Lagos State Council Chairperson, Comrade Agnes Sesse who sustained an eye injury after Onyema’s goons smacked her face breaking her glasses.

Onyema also forgot to mention the deceit in their flight operations. For instance, after claiming a flight was bound for Port Harcourt, it actually went to Owerri. There were other instances like that which made total enforcement inevitable.

Since Allen Onyema has decided to pitch his tent with Governor Hope Uzodinma in oppressing, intimidating, exploiting, violating and visiting mindless violence on workers, we wish him well. But we advise he be called to order.

For the benefit of those not in the know of this matter, the unions have exercised utmost restraint in the face of provocations and violations by Mr Hope Uzodinma.

The abridged chronicle of what transpired is as follows:

The meeting of the Joint Central Working Committees of the Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress of Nigeria held at the Olaitan Oyerinde Auditorium of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Abuja on Monday , May 1st 2023.

The meeting took a report on how the Governor of Imo State, Mr Hope Uzodinma, using thugs and agents of the state, interfered with, disrupted and scattered the commemoration ceremony of May Day organised by workers of Imo State after workers in protest of violations of their rights by the Governor, refused to be part of the Governor’s May Day ceremony.

The meeting also took a report on how in the course of the violent disruption by the thugs and agents of Uzodinma, several workers sustained injuries and had to flee for their lives.

In the course of deliberations, it was noted that:

  • The Governor had crossed the ultimate red line;
  • His latest act of violation being consistent with the previous ones which included but not limited to invasion and destruction of NLC State Council Secretariat built by Rochas Okorocha, his refusal to recognise the Caretaker Committee put in place by the Congress, his insistence on foisting on the Congress a state council chairperson in the state against all rules of decency and constitution of the Congress, his serial acts of intimidation of labour leaders and workers forcing some of the former to flee the state, his declaration of 15 thousand workers as ghost workers even after they had been verified, non-payment of pensions and gratuities for 7 years,etc;

*In the history of labour movement, no governor had so brazenly assaulted the rights of workers;

  • It is an unpardonable affront that if left unchallenged would become a contagion.

In light of this and the gravity of the situation, the meeting resolved to:

  • Resume the suspended strike action in the state from Wednesday, May 3rd, 2023 (the strike action was suspended in March following interventions by leaders of thought as well as to enable the citizens of the state perform their civic duties during the local elections on the one hand and to enable the Governor undo the damage he had done on the other. However, rather than do this, the Governor has compounded the situation);
  • Direct all the unions and workers of NLC and TUC in the state to shut down the state until such a time the Governor purges himself of his abusive and unlawful behaviour as well as redress the situation;
  • After seven days if no appreciable progress is made, all the affiliate unions of NLC and TUC will march down on Imo to enforce their rights;
  • Sanction compromised State Council executives or workers, adding the days are over when state council executives pander to the wishes of Governors.

The meeting also resolved to report the Governor to the Federal Government and the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

Benson Upah,
Head of Information and Public Affairs.

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