Imo Crisis: Respect and Reciprocity

Mr Sam Amadi, former Chairman CEO Nigerian electricity regulation commission. NERC

Hope Uzodinma is Chief Executive of Imo State. He controls the formal institutions of the state. It is his reaponsbiiity to ensure security and well-being of the people by articulating and implementing policies. He is assisted by the State Assembly and other regulatory institutions in the state.

Comrade Joe Ajaero is the Chief Executive of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC). His responsibility is to ensure that workers in Nigeria who are affiliated to the NLC enjoy their democratic rights to the fullest.

Governor Hope Uzodinma is not a king. Comrade Joe Ajaero is not a king. Each has a work to do. Each has legitimacy and accountability structures that support their roles and responsibilities. It is the responsibility of Governor Uzodinma to determine where and how workers in Imo State work. He provides the tools for productivity. Ajaero should not interfere in that exercise of power because that is not his mandate. Ajaero has responsibility to ensure that workers in Imo State unionize freely, are paid their due wages and freely elect who leads them. Labour union is a voluntary association, just like social clubs, community associations, and religious organizations.

No Governor has jurisdiction to determine what happens in these spheres of private and voluntary association. But the lure of power always draws them to interfere. Most times they succeed. Once in a while they meet a man who knows his mandate and refuses to yield to tyranny.

When I was a Chief Executive of NERC I ‘fought’ with all the Ministers. They never understood that as a regulator I have a separate mandate and not part of their bureaucracy to order around. I blocked such interference and protected the integrity and independence of my commission. In one case, I had problems with Prof Bath Nnaji. He told me that he knew I was not being used by anybody to sabotage him because he knew no one can use me. But he wondered why I am disagreeing with him. I told him that I have all good faith for him, but I
must defend my mandate as an independent regulator. That is the name of the game: mandate protection.

Ajaero was Sec. Gen. of electricity workers when I was chief executive of NERC. We disagreed on policies but there was no strike action while I was there. Even when some of our workers wanted to join his union I didn’t block them or punish anyone. I went through the rules and features of regulatory work with them and they decided to stop. I raised tariffs several times but there was no strike because I always engaged labor respectfully and tried to convince them that we meant well. Though they won’t agree with my logic but they would accept my plea for peace and restraint.

The crisis in Imo is a result of lack of respect and reciprocity. It is a result of not recognizing that the Governor is not God, he is not a King. He has legitimate sphere of influence or control. It does not extend to Labour affairs. Ajaero is in charge of that. He can always consult Ajaero, but not to impose on him.

Governors in Nigeria control police. They control church. They control town unions and determine who will be pastor, COP and even PG. But you won’t control NLC easily, especially if it is led by someone called Ajaero.

Imo people have been thrown into suffering because a Governor must control everything. We can end this suffering by having honest and trustworthy mediation between the government and NLC. That mediation starts with recognizing powers, limits and boundaries.

Good fences, they say, make good neighbors

Mr Sam Amadi

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