Festus Keyamo, the Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development, criticised the protest staged by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja.
The airport blockade occurred following a confrontation between Labour and the Imo State government, triggered by an assault on NLC President Joe Ajaero in the south-east state.
Keyamo, addressing an aviation retreat in Effurun, questioned the rationale behind targeting the aviation sector, stressing that the sector was not involved in the mistreatment of the NLC chairman.
“Aviation was not involved at all. Nothing about aviation, but their target is aviation; their retaliation is aviation. So, please, I want to beg them: ‘Leave us alone’. Leave aviation alone. You cannot target aviation in trying to address your grievances,” he told the gathering.
“You cannot target a nation in trying to address your grievances. In targeting aviation, like the Chairman of the Senate Committee [on aviation], it is a global village; it affects foreigners coming into Nigeria. It affects ordinary Nigerians going about their normal businesses,” Keyamo said.
“As of yesterday, we were battling with the fact that they said for only flights for Imo that they would disrupt. But this morning, they blocked the access roads to the Abuja airport. They are disrupting the entire country.”
Despite affirming his friendship with the labour movement, the minister urged the protesting unionists to lay down their swords for the sake of the nation’s interests.
The Imo State government denied involvement in the Ajaero assault, accusing the labour chief of political involvement.
Keyamo warns unions, saying, “Don’t let politics destroy the labour movement. Call leadership to order; stay out of politics; it’ll harm the movement.”
The NLC, a union umbrella, intended to protest in Owerri on Wednesday over salary and pension issues, as well as labour rights violations, as per spokesperson Benson.
However, the state police prohibited the demonstration. The unions allege that Ajaero was attacked by “police personnel” following a crackdown on the protest.