The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) might likely suspend the proposed nationwide strike after the federal government under President Bola Ahmed Tinbu has backtracked and withdrawn its contempt lawsuit against leaders of the organised labour.
This came barely five days after the Federal Ministry of Justice sued the organised labour leaders for allegedly disobeying a court order barring them from embarking on the nationwide protest on August 2, 2023.
Recall that the National Industry Court had stopped the organised labour from embarking on the strike action but human rights lawyer and counsel to the organised labour, Femi Falana, insisted the union could proceed with the protest.
The organised labour met with President Tinubu and reached an agreement to stop the protest that lasted for just one day. This came with agreements that the Tinubu-led government would approve labour’s demands and expedite the implementation of subsidy palliative.
Despite the agreement of both parties, the Ministry of Justice sued organised labour for court contempt. This development irked the labour leaders and as a result, they announced plans to begin another round of nationwide strike actions on August 14, 2023.
However, the Federal Ministry of Justice on Monday, August 7, said the government had backtracked from going ahead with the contempt suit.
In a letter addressed to the NLC through their counsel, Femi Falana SAN, the Ministry said the contempt proceedings filed against the congress for embarking on a nationwide protest last Wednesday were no longer valid.
The letter, signed by the permanent secretary, Beatrice Jeddy-Agba, disclosed that the ministry filed a contempt suit before the interventions of the president and the National Assembly.
The letter reads in parts: “ 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 criticised the contempt summons issued by the National Industrial Court , amongst other issues.
“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.”