BY Kunle Daramola
Lateef Fagbemi, the attorney general of the federation (AGF) and minister of justice, has asked organised labour to shelve any planned industrial action over the removal of subsidy on petrol.
On September 26, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) announced a mass action that would commence on October 3 in protest against the state of the nation.
The NLC had earlier embarked on a two-day warning strike over the impact of the removal of the subsidy on the masses.
In a letter to the NLC, TUC and Femi Falana, the senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN) who is the counsel to organised labour, Fagbemi said the planned indefinite nationwide strike is a violation of a subsisting court order.
The AGF said organised labour should respect the June 5 order issued by the national industrial court, restraining both unions from embarking on strike.
He added that the judgment remains binding and enforceable until set aside, noting that going ahead with the strike would amount to a disregard of 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 best to address the challenges associated with the petrol subsidy removal.
“The proposed strike action 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,” Fagbemi said.
“These are undoubtedly issues that have been submitted to the national industrial court for adjudication.
“Therefore, the proposed strike action 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.
“We wish to reiterate that a court order, regardless of the opinion of any party on it, remains binding and enforceable until set aside.
“It is the expectation of the public that the labour unions would lead in obedience and observance of court orders and not in its breach.
“It is, therefore, the earnest expectation of this office that your distinguished law firm will advise the labour unions on the need to protect the integrity of courts and observe the sanctity of court orders.
“Consequently, you are kindly requested to impress it upon the organized labour unions to note the fact that their proposed strike action is in gross breach of the subsisting court order, as well as the appropriateness of addressing their grievances/demands within the ambit of the law.
“Hence, the need for them to be more accommodating and show greater appreciation of the effect of the order of the court, by shelving the strike action.”