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Labour proposed protest violates court order – FG

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AGF Lateef Fagbemi urge Labour to shelve protest

The Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), has urged the Nigeria Labour Congress to shelve their proposed nationwide protest.

The NLC on February 16 announced a nationwide protest scheduled for February 27 and 28, in response to the economic challenges facing the country.

This decision followed the conclusion of a 14-day ultimatum issued to the federal government regarding the widespread hardship.

However, in a letter addressed to the counsel for the NLC, Femi Falana (SAN), dated February 23, 2024, Fagbemi reminded the NLC of a subsisting order restraining the union from embarking on any industrial action.

The letter read, “I wish to draw your esteemed attention to the joint press release dated February 8, 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 February 16, 2024.

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“A cursory perusal of the above press release clearly shows that the planned protest is premised on or connected with the alleged non-implementation of the 16-point agreement reached with the Federal Government on October 2, 2023, the consequences of the hike in the price of PMS, 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 prices, consequential matters of palliative 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 its 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 June 5, 2023, restraining both NLC and TUC from embarking on any industrial action or strike of any nature.”

Fagbemi, in the letter, said it was not in doubt that the planned protest was designed to compel the government to accede to the demands of organized labour, adding that such action qualified as an industrial action that comes within the ambit of the restraining order, which he said had neither been stayed nor set aside and therefore remains binding.

The AGF further noted that the government had substantially met the demands of the union as contained in the memorandum of understanding entered into with the NLC.

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He said, “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 the 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 that are antithetical to the mediatory engagements leading to the execution of the MoU, tantamount to undermining a subsisting restraining court order, and occasioning disruption of public service, order, and safety?”

As of the time of filing the report, the Head of Information, NLC, Benson Upah, had yet to respond to messages sent to his phone, nor did the NLC Secretary, Emmanuel Ugboaja, pick up his calls.

Also, efforts made to reach Falana on the matter proved abortive as he did not respond to calls through his mobile phone.

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He also did not reply to a text message sent to him as of the time of filing the report.

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