FG withdraws contempt suit against labour, NLC may call off strike.

The Nigerian Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress leaders were accused of organizing a statewide anti-subsidy rally on August 2, 2023, but the Federal Government has since reversed course and withdrawn the contempt complaint.

The lawsuit was filed by the Federal Ministry of Justice against the leaders of organized labour for allegedly breaking a court order prohibiting them from leading the national demonstration, which was only delayed by five days.

Although the National Industry Court had barred organized labour from going on strike, human rights attorney and counsel for organized labor Femi Falana argued the union could still carry out the protest.

The organized labour and President Bola Tinubu met on Wednesday night and came to an agreement to call an end to the one-day protest. This was accompanied by commitments that the Federal Government would swiftly adopt subsidy palliative and approve labour awards.

Despite the agreement, the Ministry of Justice prosecuted organized labour for court contempt. This infuriated labour leaders, who subsequently said they would start a statewide strike on August 14.

On the other hand, the Federal Ministry of Justice declared on Monday that the government had changed its mind about proceeding with the contempt lawsuit.

In a letter dated August 7, 2023, the ministry said that the contempt proceedings brought against the Nigeria Labour Congress for starting a countrywide demonstration last Wednesday were no longer legitimate. The letter was sent to the congress through its attorney, Femi Falana SAN.

The ministry filed the contempt proceedings prior to the President and the National Assembly’s involvement, according to the letter signed by the Permanent Secretary, Beatrice Jeddy-Agba.

“The attention of the Federal Ministry of Justice has been drawn to the Communique issued by the Nigeria Labour Congress on 3 August 2023 wherein NC announced the suspension of its nationwide protests and criticized the contempt summons issued by the National Industrial Court (*Court), among other issues,” read the letter, which was addressed to the NLC’s attorney, Femi Falana.

“Kindly recall the exchange of correspondence between the Ministry and your Office on the need for compliance with the extant court orders, restraining industrial action of any kind on the part of the Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress. The position of the Ministry was informed by the need to safeguard the integrity of the court and prevent avoidable service disruption or damages to public facilities.

“However, despite these exchanges/interventions, the labour unions on 2nd August 2023 proceeded with the industrial action through public protests which led to disruption of work and the eventual pulling down of the gate of the National Assembly. The foregoing prompted the Ministry to initiate contempt proceedings by filing Form 48 on the same 2nd August 2023 in accordance with Section 72 of the Sheriffs and Civil Process Act and Order 9 Rule 13 of the Judgment (Enforcement) Rules.”

The letter further read, ““It is trite that issuance of Form 48 is just the starting point in contempt proceedings which will only crystalise upon the issuance of Form 49 and the consequential committal order. Upon the intervention of His Excellency, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the decision of the labour unions to call-off their industrial action after meetings with the President and leadership of the National Assembly, this Ministry did not proceed further with the contempt proceedings, which would have required the issuance of Form 49 within two days of the issuance of Form 48.

“It is self-evident that the none-issuance of Form 49 as at 4th of August 2023, renders the contempt proceedings inchoate. You may therefore wish to advise or guide the labour unions on the practice and procedure of contempt proceedings, particularly to the effect that the issues or concerns raised by NLC in its communiqué on the proceedings have been overtaken by events.”

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Sydney Okafor

I am so passionate about this my profession as a broadcast journalist and voiceover artists and presently a reporter at TV360 Nigeria

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