New Telegraph

Hardship: Falana Replies AGF, Says NLC’s Protest Not Contempt

Femi Falana (SAN), human rights activist and Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) attorney has reacted to the comment made by the Attorney General of the Federation and the Minister of Justice, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN) that the union’s planned nationwide protest is a contempt.

Speaking on the development, Falana claimed that the Federal Government’s subsequent threat of contempt against the NLC for planning a second protest over the rising cost of living appears contradictory and inconsistent after withdrawing the contempt proceedings against the NLC and TUC for their demonstration on August 2, 2023.

The Human rights lawyer argued that the NLC’s planned public protest does not violate the two ex parte rulings from the National Industrial Court.

In a letter to the Attorney General of the Federation, Falana insisted that the NLC had contested the National Industrial Court’s jurisdiction to hear the substantive case, so the issue of contempt did not come up.

The letter partly read, “Even though the parties signed a 16-point memorandum of understanding, the Federal Government did not implement all the terms of the agreement. Hence, on August 2, 2023, both NLC and TUC held a peaceful protest throughout the country.

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“Instead of implementing the Agreement, the Federal Government initiated contempt proceedings against the NLC and TUC at the National Industrial Court. We challenged the competence of the contempt proceedings. “However, the Federal Government turned around to withdraw the application for contempt.

“On November 10, 2023, the Federal Government filed another Suit, No NICN/ABJ/322/2023 between Federal Government of Nigeria & Anor. at the National Industrial Court against the NLC and TUC, notwithstanding the pendency of Suit No. Suit No NICN/ABJ/158/2023.

“On that same day, the President of the National Industrial Court, the Honourable Justice Benedict Kanyip granted an ex parte order to restrain the NLC and TUC from embarking on the planned strike. However, His Lordship directed that the case file be transferred to Justice Olufunke Yemi Anuwe who is handling a similar labour dispute between the same parties.

“Both NLC and TUC challenged the competence of the fresh suit on the ground that it constitutes a gross abuse of court process, inter alia. The application has not been heard and determined by the National Industrial Court.

“Having withdrawn the contempt proceedings filed against the NLC and TUC for embarking on public protest on August 2, 2023, you ought not to have threatened the NLC with contempt of court over its plan to hold rallies from February 27-28, 2024 against the astronomical cost of living in the country.

“We submit, without any fear of contradiction, that the proposed public protest of the NLC is not contemptuous of the two ex parte orders of the National Industrial Court. In particular, the issue of contempt does not arise as the NLC has challenged the jurisdiction of the National Industrial Court to entertain the substantive case.”

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