The Federal Government has dropped the contempt charge against the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC), and their leaders just four days before the expiration of the NLC’s ultimatum to withdraw the contempt summons or face an indefinite nationwide strike.
In a letter addressed to Messrs Falana & Falana’ Chambers, the Counsel to NLC, the Solicitor-General of the Federation and Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Justice, Mrs. B.E. Jeddy-Agba, stated that the Ministry had taken note of the Communiqué issued by the NLC on August 3, 2023. In the Communiqué, the NLC announced the suspension of its nationwide protests and criticized the contempt summons issued by the National Industrial Court (Court), among other issues.
The Ministry reminded NLC’s counsel about previous correspondences concerning compliance with court orders that restrained any form of industrial action by the NLC and TUC. The Ministry’s stance was to protect the court’s integrity and prevent disruptions or damage to public facilities.
However, despite these exchanges and interventions, the labour unions proceeded with their industrial action through public protests on August 2, 2023, resulting in work disruptions and the pulling down of the gate of the National Assembly. In response to this, the Ministry initiated contempt proceedings by filing Form 48 on the same day, in accordance with Section 72 of the Sheriffs and Civil Process Act and Order 9 Rule 13 of the Judgment (Enforcement) Rules. It is important to note that the issuance of Form 48 was just the initial step in the contempt proceedings, which would only proceed with the issuance of Form 49 and the consequential committal order.
However, after the intervention of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the labour unions’ decision to call off their industrial action following meetings with the President and the National Assembly’s leadership, the Ministry decided not to proceed further with the contempt proceedings. Such proceedings would have required the issuance of Form 49 within two days of the issuance of Form 48. As of August 4, 2023, Form 49 had not been issued, making the contempt proceedings incomplete.
The Ministry suggested that NLC’s counsel may wish to advise or guide the labour unions on the practice and procedure of contempt proceedings. It emphasized that the issues or concerns raised by NLC in its communiqué regarding the proceedings had been rendered irrelevant due to subsequent events.
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