The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has criticized the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, for his recent statement regarding the planned strike scheduled to commence on October 3. Mr. Fagbemi had asserted that this strike would violate a pending interim injunctive order issued on June 5, 2023, by the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN). This order restrained both the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria from initiating any industrial action or strike until the pending motion on notice was heard and decided.
In response, the NLC issued a statement on Friday, signed by its President, Joe Ajaero, expressing bewilderment over Mr. Fagbemi’s remarks. The NLC found it puzzling that the Attorney General referred to a restraining order issued on June 5 through a motion ex parte when the Ministry of Justice had officially stated that it had lapsed due to non-diligent prosecution.
The NLC demanded clarification on which specific order Mr. Fagbemi was referring to and cautioned against equating a restraining order with a perpetual injunction, emphasizing that such a misinterpretation would harm the legal and judicial system.
The statement also revealed that the court had refused to convene during the pendency of the order to consider the NLC’s response. Additionally, it pointed out that representatives of the Federal Government on the National Steering Committee had stated that their mandate did not extend to subsequent increments beyond the initial one, differentiating the issues for which the expired order was issued.
The NLC noted that the Ministers of Labour and Employment and Justice are expected to maintain impartiality in their roles, but Mr. Fagbemi’s stance appeared to show partisanship.
The NLC asserted its right to free expression and warned against any attempt to silence or infringe upon its fundamental human rights as enshrined in the 1999 constitution. It reminded those in power of their history when they were in opposition.
Furthermore, the NLC questioned Mr. Fagbemi’s advice to labour unions on protecting the integrity of the courts and the sanctity of court orders, arguing that the real threat to the sanctity of the courts was the attempt to convert a restraining order obtained under questionable circumstances into a perpetual injunction.
Finally, the NLC pointed out that the National Industrial Court operates differently from regular courts, urging Mr. Fagbemi to seek expertise on NICN matters. It emphasized its history of patriotic and nationalistic activities, asserting its commitment to national interests, security, and sovereignty.
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