The Nigeria Labour Congress has kicked against a court order secured by the Federal Government restraining the union and the Trade Union Congress from embarking on a planned nationwide strike over the removal of fuel subsidy.
The NLC President, Joe Ajaero, in an interview with one of our correspondents, said the strike would go on Wednesday as planned, noting that the labour centre was not aware of the court order stopping the industrial action.
Justice O. Y. Anuwe of the National Industrial Court handed down the order against the NLC and TUC 48 hours before the commencement of the industrial action as the Inspector-General of Police, Usman Baba met with police managers in Abuja where he ordered them to carry out effective deployments to prevent hoodlums from hijacking the protests.
Speaking to Newsmen while taking a break during a meeting with government officials at the Presidential Villa on Monday, Ajaero said, “The industrial court order came late after the close of business today. So the NLC is not aware of it and it is not even mentioned in the meeting. By tomorrow (today), they won’t find anybody at the NLC office to serve it to because, by then, we will all be on the field mobilising for the strike.”
The NLC had told Newsmen earlier on Monday that the strike action would be for an indefinite period.
Responding to a question on the duration of the strike, the National Treasurer of NLC, Akeem Hambali simply said, ‘’It is indefinite for now.”
Asked whether there was a plan to shelve the action, he said, “Strike will commence on Wednesday except otherwise directed by the National Executive Council.”
But in a last-ditch move to avert the strike, the government again called for a meeting with the NLC leaders at the Presidential Villa. The meeting was still ongoing as of the time of filing this report.
The government representatives had on Wednesday last week met both the NLC and Trade Union Congress leaders, but the meeting ended in a deadlock.
The NLC was however absent from the meeting the government held with the labour leaders on Sunday.
But the FG on Monday obtained a court order stopping the strike. In the suit filed by the FG, the court held that the industrial action, “if not circumvented’’ is capable of disrupting economic activities and essential sectors from carrying out vital functions.
Justice Anuwe specifically barred the NLC and the TUC from “embarking on the planned industrial action/or strike of any nature, pending the determination of the motion on notice dated 5th June 2023.”
It equally ordered that the two labour centres listed as defendants/respondents in the matter should be “immediately served with the originating processes in the suit, the motion on notice, as well as the interim order.
The FG had in the suit marked: NICN/ABJ/158/2023, which it filed through the Federal Ministry of Justice, applied for an order of interim injunction restraining the two unions, their members, agents, employees, workmen, servants, proxies or affiliates from embarking on the planned industrial action which was to commence on Wednesday.
Lawyer to the FG and Director, Civil Litigation, Ministry of Justice, Mrs Maimuna Shiru, maintained that the proposed strike action was capable of disrupting economic activities, and the health and educational sectors.
The government tendered exhibits FGN 1, 2, and 3, which were notices from the NLC, TUC, and the Nigerian Union of Journalists to their members, asking them to withdraw their services with effect from Wednesday, June 7.
The court held that it was empowered and clothed by section 7(b) of the NIC Act, 2006, with the exclusive jurisdiction in matters relating to ‘the grant of any order to restrain any person or body from taking part in any strike, lockout or any industrial action or any conduct in contemplation or in furtherance of strike, lockout or industrial action.’’
It held that sections 16 and 19(a) of the NIC Act 2006, also empowered it to grant urgent interim reliefs.
The court held that the affidavit of urgency as well as the submission of the FG’s lawyer revealed “a scenario that may gravely affect the larger society and the well-being of the nation at large.”
Anuwe stated, “Counsel has pointed out that students of secondary schools nationwide, especially those writing WAEC exams nationwide, will be affected. The tertiary institutions that have only just resumed after a long ASUU strike will also be affected, not leaving the health sector, amongst other sectors, and above all, the economy of the nation. In my view, this is a situation of extreme urgency that will require the intervention of this court.”
He subsequently fixed June 19 for the hearing in the suit.