Following their nationwide protest, the Nigerian government has retracted the contempt of court allegations against organized Labour.
This decision is outlined in a communication directed to the principal legal representative of the NLC, Falana, and Falana’s Chambers. The letter, dated August 7 and signed by the Solicitor General of the Federation, Mrs. B.E. Jeddy-Agba, was obtained by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja on Tuesday.
Previously, the Federal Ministry of Justice had summoned the leadership of organized Labour before the National Industrial Court (NICN) on charges of contempt of court due to their participation in the protest.
It’s worth noting that organized Labour had warned of a nationwide strike commencing on August 14 unless the government retracted its contempt charges.
Organized Labour had undertaken a widespread protest against the government’s anti-poor policies, particularly the elimination of subsidies that had caused immense suffering among Nigerians.
The letter states, “Please recall the correspondence between the ministry and your office regarding the necessity to abide by existing court orders that prohibit any form of industrial action by the Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress.”
“The ministry’s stance was motivated by the need to uphold the court’s credibility and prevent disruptions to public services or damage to public infrastructure.”
“Despite these exchanges and interventions, the labor unions proceeded with their industrial action through public protests on August 2.”
This action, the letter notes, resulted in disruptions to work and the eventual removal of the gate at the National Assembly.
As a result, the ministry initiated contempt proceedings by filing Form 48 on August 2, 2023, following Section 72 of the Sheriffs and Civil Process Act and Order 9 Rule 13 of the Judgment (Enforcement) Rules.
“It is evident that the issuance of Form 48 is just the initial step in contempt proceedings, which will only solidify upon the issuance of Form 49 and the subsequent committal order.”
The letter points out that due to the intervention of President Bola Tinubu and the decision of the labor unions to call off their strike after discussions with the President and National Assembly leadership:
“The ministry did not pursue the contempt proceedings further, which would have required the issuance of Form 49 within two days of the issuance of Form 48.”
“It is clear that the non-issuance of Form 49 by August 4 renders the contempt proceedings incomplete.”
“Thus, you may wish to advise or guide the labor unions on the process and procedure of contempt proceedings. Furthermore, it is essential to note that the concerns raised by the NLC in its communication on the proceedings are no longer relevant due to subsequent events.”