In a sudden twist of events, The Nigerian Federal Government has withdrawn its suit against the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Nigerian Trade Union Congress (TUC).
The Nigerian Federal Ministry of Justice in a letter dated August 7, 2023, and addressed to the Nigeria Labour Congress through their counsel, Femi Falana, SAN, said the contempt proceedings filed against the congress for embarking on a nationwide protest last week Wednesday had been overtaken by events and such no longer stands.
The ministry in the letter signed by the Permanent Secretary, Beatrice Jeddy-Agba said the ministry filed the contempt proceedings before the interventions of the President, Bola Tinubu, and the National Assembly.
The message which was addressed to NLC’s counsel, Femi Falana reads, “The attention of the Federal Ministry of Justice has been drawn to the Communique issued by the Nigeria Labour Congress on 3 August 2023 wherein NLC announced the suspension of its nationwide protests and criticised the contempt summons issued by the National Industrial Court (*Court”), amongst other issues.
“Kindly recall the exchange of correspondence between the Ministry and your Office on the need for compliance with the extant court orders, restraining industrial action of any kind on the part of the Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress. The position of the Ministry was informed by the need to safeguard the integrity of the court and prevent avoidable service disruption or damages to public facilities.
“However, despite these exchanges/interventions, the labour unions on 2nd August 2023 proceeded with the industrial action through public protests which led to disruption of work and the eventual pulling down of the gate of the National Assembly. The foregoing prompted the Ministry to initiate contempt proceedings by filing Form 48 on the same 2nd August 2023 in accordance with Section 72 of the Sheriffs and Civil Process Act and Order 9 Rule 13 of the Judgement (Enforcement) Rules.
“It is trite that issuance of Form 48 is just the starting point in contempt proceedings which will only crystalize upon the issuance of Form 49 and the consequential committal order. Upon the intervention of His Excellency, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the decision of the labour unions to call off their industrial action after meetings with the President and leadership of the National Assembly, this Ministry did not proceed further with the contempt proceedings, which would have required the issuance of Form 49 within two days of the issuance of Form 48.
“It is self-evident that the non-issuance of Form 49 as at 4′ August 2023, renders the contempt proceedings inchoate. You may therefore wish to advise or guide the labour unions on the practice and procedure of contempt proceedings, particularly to the effect that the issues or concerns raised by NLC in its communique on the proceedings have been overtaken by events.”
When contacted on Monday, as to whether the NLC would shelve its planned strike, Falana said the decision rests on the labour leaders.
The PUNCH reports that the NLC had last week Thursday said it would commence a nationwide strike on August 14, 2023, should the Federal Ministry of Justice fail to withdraw the lawsuit filed against the organised labour.