HomeNIGERIAPetrol/electricity tariff hikes: Labour adamant as FG obtains fresh order to stop strike

Petrol/electricity tariff hikes: Labour adamant as FG obtains fresh order to stop strike

Despite the two court orders restraining the Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress from embarking on their planned nationwide strike on Monday, the two labour unions have said they will go ahead with the industrial action.

They added that the mobilisation of workers for the strike and protest scheduled to commence on Monday had already commenced.

The NLC President, Ayuba Wabba and his TUC counterpart, Quadri Olaleye, said in separate interviews on Friday that they had not been served the court processes and would therefore not suspend the proposed strike.

The NLC and TUC had jointly declared their readiness to embark on a nationwide strike to compel the Federal Government to reverse the recent hikes in electricity tariffs and petrol pump price. The hikes had generated nationwide criticism.

Justice Ibrahim Galadima of the National Industrial Court in Abuja on Friday issued a fresh restraining order against the unions, following an ex parte application by the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation.

The fresh order came barely 24 hours after the same judge made a similar restraining ex parte order in favour of a group, Peace and Unity Ambassadors Association, on Thursday.

The judge, sitting as vacation judge, ordered that both the NLC and the TUC joined as the defendants in the suit should be served with the fresh court order within seven days from Friday.

The Federal Government of Nigeria and the AGF are the plaintiffs in the suit marked NICN/ABJ/257/2020. The ex parte application was signed by the AGF, Abubakar Malami (SAN).

The Acting Director of the Department of Civil Litigation, Federal Ministry of Justice, Mrs Maimuna Shiru, moved the ex parte application on behalf of the plaintiffs on Friday.

The judge ruled, “Upon careful evaluation and consideration of the motion ex parte filed by these claimants/applicants before me on this date, and after perusing the deposition contained in the affidavit in support as well as the affidavit of the urgency, I am convinced that the said application is meritorious and the same is granted as sought.

“Consequently, the order of interim injunction restraining the defendant is hereby granted as sought. The defendants/respondents shall be served within seven days from today (Friday) with the motion on notice as well as the other originating processes for the purpose of determining them by this court.”

The judge ordered that “the case file shall be remitted to the Honourable President of National Industrial Court of Nigeria for reassignment to the substantive judge.”

“Hearing date shall be issued and served on all parties accordingly,” he added.

In an affidavit filed in support of the application on Friday, the Federal Government stated that the labour unions’ planned industrial action “is premised on an ill-informed mindset that the claimants want to impose suffering on Nigerians due to the increase in electricity tariffs and deregulation of petroleum prices”.

But responding to questions, Wabba in a series of text messages to one of our correspondents stated that the NLC union had not been served with both court orders.

He stated, “We have not been served with the order of any court. The right to assemble peacefully and protest is guaranteed by the Nigerian constitution. It’s a universal right; our political elite exercised this right without hindrance.

“It could be recalled that the dialogue between the Federal Government and organised labour ended after 9pm yesterday (Thursday) where the government team adjourned the meeting for consultation.”

Wabba said, “The social media reported a court order obtained by an NGO which we were not served. We are equally not served any court process by the government. I think it’s meant to divert attention from the issues at stake. We have not been put on notice or served any process.”

Similarly, when asked if the strike would proceed as planned if the dialogue between the unions and the Federal Government scheduled to continue on Monday failed to yield fruits, the TUC president said “yes”.

Following the hikes in electricity tariffs and fuel pump price, the Federal Government and the labour unions had met penultimate Tuesday but the dialogue ended in a deadlock on account of the failure of the government to reverse the price increase or offer palliatives to cushion the effects of the hikes on workers.

The NLC and TUC subsequently declared strike and protest as both unions said they would collaborate to execute the industrial action for maximum effect.

At the second meeting held at the Presidential Villa Banquet Hall on Thursday evening, the Federal Government team and the labour representatives also failed to reach a resolution prompting the adjournment of the dialogue to Monday.

To avert the strike, the government reportedly offered palliatives, including mass and affordable housing for workers and procurement of transport buses to help reduce the impact of the rise in fuel price.

The FG was also said to have proposed that the Central Bank and the Ministry of Agriculture would help farmers with loans, including N2.5bn as fresh palliatives to workers on levels one to four. They also agreed that the government would not tax the minimum wage.

However, there was no consensus as the labour unions were asked to consult with their organs on the government offers and revert on Monday when the next rounds of discussions would hold.

The NLC President had said the hikes, coupled with the increase of Value Added Tax to 7.5 per cent and numerous charges by commercial banks on depositors’ funds, all in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic were not only ill-timed but also counterproductive. He said these would further impoverish Nigerian workers, citizens and their families.

Courts to shut down as judiciary workers, others back strike

Meanwhile, judiciary workers, under the aegis of Judicial Staff Union of Nigeria, have said they would shut down courts nationwide on Monday in compliance with NLC and TUC’s directive.

The President of JUSUN, Marwan Adamu, told one of our correspondents on Friday that as an affiliate of NLC, the union of judiciary workers was bound by the umbrella body’s directive.

“The strike is not JUSUN strike; it is NLC strike. As an affiliate of NLC, we are bound by the strike declaration, so we are joining the strike,” Adamu said.

Asked if the restraining order by the Industrial Court would not be complied with, Adamu said, “The order has not been served on us, so the strike will go on”.

Adamu confirmed that the notice for the strike had been circulated to various courts and judicial institutions across the country.

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