Regarding the court injunction preventing organised labour from going on its planned strike, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has responded to the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN).
In a statement to the AGF on Friday, NLC President Joe Ajaero said that a court restraining order cannot be compared to a permanent injunction.
According to Anaedoonline.ng, the AGF had urged organised labour to abide by the Industrial Court’s ruling from June 5, 2023.
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The AGF claimed that there was a “pending interim injunctive order granted on June 5, 2023, restraining both the Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress of Nigeria from embarking on any industrial action or strike pending the hearing and determination of the pending motion on notice.”
Fagbemi also called on the human rights lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN), to request his clients to comply with the order.
However, in its reply, Ajaero, in the statement titled ”The AGF has descended into the arena,” expressed disappointment at the AGF, saying instead of being a constitutional umpire to intervene between the federal government and the labour unions, it has become biased and misinterpreting the law.
The NLC President said, “We find it curious that Mr. Lateef Fagbemi, a thorough-bred professional, could indulge in this kind of talk. We are shocked that Mr. Lateef Fagbemi is referring to a restraining order issued on June 5 through motion ex parte, which the Ministry of Justice, in a formal statement, had said lapsed due to non-diligent prosecution.
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“Which order could Fagbemi be talking about here, we demand to know. We, similarly, find it necessary to remind Fagbemi that equating a restraining order to a perpetual injunction will do no small damage to our legal/judicial system.
“For once, we find it appropriate to reveal to the world that the court refused to sit during the pendency of the order to take our response to that order. Even though we would not want to be drawn into details here, representatives of the Federal Government on the National Steering Committee are on record to have said in the Villa that their mandate did not extend to subsequent increments after the one of N187–N537 thus differentiating between the issues for which the order (that has since run out of time) was issued.
“There are two ministerial portfolios whose offices constitutionally do not admit partisanship in the discharge of their duties. These are the Minister of Labour and Employment and the Minister of Justice. In addition to their regular duties, they are expected to play the umpire role.
“But here we find a Minister of Justice whose first major outing is not only an open partisanship but has descended into the arena with his robe and wig, losing in the process the umpire status. To gag us, to bind us, to tie us to the pole for life without a chance to hear us out will constitute not just malicious conduct but grievous injury to our fundamental human rights as enshrined in the 1999 constitution (as amended).”
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The NLC leader continued, “It’s unfortunate that the AGF, which is struggling to conduct its business from a high moral ground, is counselling the union.”
“We refuse to be gagged. We also want to remind those in power of their own history when they were out of power. We find it pathetic that Mr. Fagbemi strives to operate from the high moral ground by advising.
“Labour Unions on the need to protect the integrity of courts and observe the sanctity of court orders”.
“Who is causing more injury to the sanctity of the courts? Those seeking to convert a restraining order obtained under the cover of the night to a perpetual injunction or the victims of this terrorism?
“Coupled with all this, the Attorney General is advised to note that the letter, spirit, principles and intendment of the National Industrial Court are quite different from those of the regular court to which he is accustomed! Let him hire experts on NICN.
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“Our response will not be complete without reminding Mr. Lateef Fagbemi that we are the foremost pan-Nigerian organisation with an unrivalled patriotism and an illustrious history of popular struggle pre-dating our national independence. Accordingly, we do not need a lecture from anyone on national interest, national security or preservation of our sovereignty,” Ajaero added.
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