The attorney general of the federation and minister of justice, Prince Lateef Fagbemi (SAN) has told organised labour to obey the June 5 order issued by the National Industrial Court stopping both the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) from going ahead with any industrial action over fuel subsidy removal and related issues.
Fagbemi, in a September 26 letter to the lawyer to the NLC and TUC, Femi Falana (SAN), said the plan by both labour bodies to embark on an indefinite strike from October 3 was a violation of the subsisting order and a disregard to the dignity and integrity of the court.
The AGF urged Falana to prevail on his clients to respect the order of the court and allow room for ongoing negotiations between parties on how to address the challenges associated with the fuel subsidy removal.
He noted that from the communique issued by the NLC after its National Executive Council meeting on August 31 and the September 26 joint communique by the presidents of the NLC and TUC, it was obvious that “the proposed strike is premised principally in furtherance of issues connected with the removal of fuel subsidy, hike in fuel price and consequential matters of making provisions for palliatives and workers welfare”.
The AGF said: “These are undoubtedly issues that have been submitted to the National Industrial Court for adjudication.
“Therefore, the proposed strike is in clear violation of the pending interim injunctive order granted on 5th June, 2023 restraining both Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress from embarking on any industrial action/or strike of any nature, pending the hearing and determination of the pending motion on notice.”
The AGF reiterated that a court order, regardless of the opinion of any party on it, remains binding and enforceable until set aside, adding that the labour unions were expected to obey and observe court orders, not breach it.
Hence, he described the proposed strike as a gross breach of the subsisting court order, and stressed the need for the labour congress to be more accommodating by shelving the strike action to allow more room for a resolution of the matter.
Don’t Abandon Dialogue, NEC Urges Unions
Meanwhile, the National Economic Council (NEC) has appealed to organised labour to shelve the impending strike set for October 3nd.
Plateau State Governor Caleb Mutfwang told State House correspondents yesterday after a NEC meeting presided over by Vice President Kashim Shettima at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, that the proposed strike could have dire consequences for the nation’s economy.
According to him, the Council urged members to continue to engage with the Labour leadership of their respective states and to appeal to them to shelve the action and continue on the path of dialogue with the federal government.
He also disclosed that President Bola Tinubu, in his forthcoming October 1 address to the nation, is expected to touch upon some of the concerns raised by the labour unions.
He, however, appealed for more time for the government to work on addressing the concerns of Labour, even as he noted that there are feelers indicating that leadership at every level genuinely wants the issues raised by the Labour addressed once and for all.
“The nation is at a very critical moment at this time, some of the states, when they took over on May 29, the workers were on strike; some of those issues have just been resolved for the workers to return to work. To ask them to go back immediately, it’s going to further damage the economy.
“Therefore NEC, while expressing genuine concern about the situation in the country, appeals for calm and patience and I want to believe that the leadership across the nation at this point in time wants to truly address the issues that concern Labour and the general populace and move the country forward”, he said.
The NEC, chaired by Vice President Shettima, comprises the 36 state governors and the Central Bank governor.
However, the existing hike in cost of fuel may rise further following the planned strike by the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) in solidarity with NLC and TUC.
NUPENG Mobilises Members For Strike
As the day for the commencement of strike by TUC and NLC draws closer, affiliate unions have started expressing their willingness to take part in it.
One of such unions that has fully mobilised its members for the strike is NUPENG.
The president, Comrade Williams Akporeha, who made the readiness of NUPENG known, blamed the non-compliance of the federal government to agreements as the reason the union will join in the strike.
According to him, NUPENG is joining the strike because of the nonchalant attitude of the federal government towards addressing the needs of the masses.
“Further worrisome to us is the apparent lack of regards and respect to cries and yearnings of the organised labour, civil society organisations and the general public by this administration. It appears the administration is arrogantly taking the goodwill and the tolerance level of the workers and Nigerians in general for granted.
“This arrogance is demonstrated clearly and loudly by the ways and manners meetings with organised labour and outcomes of such meetings are taken with levity and disrespect,” it said.
He, therefore, announced that the rank and file of the members of the union had been directed to commence full mobilisation towards complying with the directive of the two Labour Centres to all affiliate industrial Unions to embark on a nationwide industrial action from midnight of 3rd October, 2023.