FG faults NLC planned nationwide strike, says it’s gross contempt, affront

The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, has warned the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) to shelve its planned nationwide protest slated for February 27 and February 28, 2024.

In a letter to NLC counsel, Femi Falana, SAN, the Minister said the Federal Government has “reasonably” complied with its memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Organised Labour even though certain areas of the terms of agreement have been inhibited by “unforeseen” circumstances.

According to the AGF, the planned industrial action could amount to contempt in view of a restraining order of a National Industrial Court (NIC).

The NLC leadership had accused the Federal Government of refusing to implement the MoU signed by both parties in the wake of fuel subsidy removal in 2023, which touches on workers’ welfare, among other demands.

However, the Trade Union Congress (TUC) withdrew from NLC’s plan industrial action, saying it was not carried along.

In the letter dated February 23 and addressed to Falana’s office in Maitama, Abuja, the AGF wrote that the planned protest was premised on or connected with alleged non-implementation of the 16-point agreement reached with the Federal Government on October 02, 2023, adding it was targeted at promoting issues connected with hike in fuel price and consequential matters of palliatives, workers welfare, and associated government policies.

But Fagbemi urged Falana to note that there is a pending case before the National Industrial Court regarding the development.

“Upon the submission of grievances to the court, parties in the suit cannot resort to public protests over the same issues, as such conduct amounts to gross contempt and affront to the institution of our courts of law.

“Therefore, the proposed nationwide protest action in all ramifications is in clear violation of the pending interim injunctive order granted in SUIT NO: NICN/ABJ/158/2023- FEDERAL GOVERNMENT OF NIGERIA & ANOR V. NIGERIAN LABOUR CONGRESS & ANOR on 5h June 2023 restraining both NLC and TUC from embarking on any industrial action or strike of
any nature.

“It is not in doubt that the planned protest is designed to compel government to accede to the demands of organized labour, therefore, such action qualifies as an industrial action which comes within the ambit of the restraining order,” Fagbemi added, explaining that the restraining order has neither been stayed nor set aside, and, therefore, remains binding on all parties including Nigerian workers.

“I wish to note that government has substantially and reasonably complied with the items in the MOU and it is only appropriate and equitable for organized labour to engage more with government to ensure the full implementation of same, especially in areas that have been inhibited by unforeseen challenges.

“May I therefore request that you kindly implore and enjoin your clients to refrain from self-help by shelving the proposed protests which is antithetical to the mediatory engagements leading to the execution of the MoU, tantamount to undermining subsisting restraining court order, and occasioning disruption of public service, order and safety.

“Please accept the assurance of my esteemed regards,” the letter added.

SOURCE: Leadership

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