AGF gives warning to NLC on planned statewide protests

Mr. Lateef Fagbemi, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, has urged the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) to call off its planned statewide protests.

Fagbemi said any planned protests would be considered contempt of court.

On February 16, the NLC announced a countrywide demonstration on February 27 and 28 in reaction to the country’s economic woes.This judgment came after a 14-day deadline imposed to the federal government in response to widespread hardship.

However, in a letter issued to a human rights lawyer and counsel for the NLC, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), dated February 23, 2024, Fagbemi reminded the NLC of a subsisting order barring the union from engaging in any industrial action.

The AGF, who noted that the federal government has substantially met the demands of the union as contained in the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) entered with the NLC, added that there was no need to embark on any strike.He argued that it is only appropriate and equitable for organised labour to engage more with the government to ensure the full implementation of the MoU, especially in areas that have been inhibited by unforeseen challenges.

The letter read: “I wish to draw your esteemed attention to the Joint Press Release dated 8th February 2024, containing a 14-day ultimatum, jointly issued by the President of the NLC and President of the TUC as well as the notice of a two-day national protest issued by the NLC President on 16th February 2024.

“A cursory perusal of the above press release clearly shows that the planned protest is premised on or connected with alleged non-implementation of the 16-point agreement reached with the federal government on October 02, 2023, consequences of the hike in the price of PMS (petrol), and other associated issues. It is therefore safe to assert again that the proposed cause of action by NLC is targeted at achieving objectives or promoting issues connected with a hike in fuel price and consequential matters of palliatives, workers’ welfare, and associated government policies.

“You may wish to note that the foregoing issues or objectives are at the core of the pending case before the National Industrial Court. 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 5th 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 the government to accede to the demands of organised labour, therefore, such action qualifies as an industrial action, which comes within the ambit of the restraining order. This restraining order has neither been stayed nor set- aside and therefore remains binding.”

Fagbemi added: “I wish to note that the government has substantially and reasonably complied with the items in the MOU and it is only appropriate and equitable for organised labour to engage more with the 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 are 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,” Fagbemi added.

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