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Is NLC right to counter court order with strike order against petrol price hike?

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NLC strongman Abdulwahed Omar
NLC strongman, Abdulwahed Omar

Justice Babatunde Adejumo of the National Industrial Court has stopped ‎the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) from embarking on strike to protest last week’s increase in fuel price by the federal Government. In his judgement, he ordered that: “The defendants are hereby restrained from carrying out the threat contained in their communique issued on May 14th pending the hearing and determination of the ‎motion on notice filed on May 16. It is the order of this court that status quo be maintained as at 17th May‎.”

Observers may call this a legal ambush and kangaroo ruling as the respondents, members of the NLC and TUC were not in court. Another tactical move on the part of Adejumo is that immediately after his ruling, he transferred the case to another judge of the court saying that he would be engaged at the National Judicial Council and would not be able to take further proceeding on the matter.

He said: “I decided to take this case this morning because it is on an issue that will affect everybody. I don’t want people to be subjected to hardship. There will be scarcity of food, people may die, students will engage in all sorts of activities. This is why I have to grant this order.”

The NLC had condemned government’s decision to increase petrol price from N86.50 to N145 per litre, and vowed to resist the policy.

The court order will lapse in seven days except it is renewed. The Buhari administration had taken the matter to court through the office of its attorney general, 24 hours after its negotiations with the NLC and TUC had failed. Government had filed an exparte motion citing Section 14 of the 1999 Constitution as amended to justify its application to stop the strike.

However, at a meeting with government where the NLC had staged a walkout last night in Abuja, NLC rep Ayuba Wabba had reportedly said that the NLC had not received any court order stopping its strike, adding: “We have not been served, we are not aware, we have not been put on notice.”

1. The attention of all Public Officers is drawn to the notice issued by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) to embark on an indefinite strike from Wednesday, 18th May, 2016. This notice is regrettably given in spite of an Order by the Industrial Court against the strike action.

2. Government, therefore, calls upon and advises all workers to respect the laws of the land and to desist from participating in an illegal strike action. Government undertakes to guarantee the safety of workers and their work places, and expects that normal work will continue in the interest of the nation.

Accordingly, Security agencies have been directed to ensure unimpeded access to offices, work places and markets. Acts of intimidation, harassment, including barricading of gates, locking up of offices, blocking of roads and preventing workers from carrying out their lawful duties will be met with appropriate response by the law enforcement agencies.

3. All workers, whether in public or private sector are further reminded of the Trade Dispute Act, 2004, which provides that “where any worker takes part in a strike, he shall not be entitled to any wages or remuneration for the period of the strike and any such period shall not count for the purpose of reckoning the period of continuous employment and all rights dependent on continuity of employment shall be prejudicially affected accordingly.”

4. Accordingly, all Ministers, Permanent Secretaries and Heads of Government Agencies are hereby directed to invoke the provision of “no work no pay” in respect of any staff who absents him or herself from work to join the strike action. Attendance registers are required to be opened in all Ministries, Departments and Agencies.

The above statement as issued by Engineer Babachir David Lawal, Secretary to the Government of the Federation was broadcast on national television five hours ago – May 18, 2016

This is not particularly a new way of handling strikes in Nigeria, but admissibly, it is a fresh way of making the court an arbitrator between government and Labour. The next seven days will determine Labour’s next move so that it isn’t guilty of fouling up a court order. Right now its ranks are grossly divided. Do you think NLC has gone too far by flouting a court order and would you go strike yourself over this petrol price hike?[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]


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