New Telegraph

…Labour’s protest not contempt, Falana tells AGF

The counsel for the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Femi Falana (SAN), has said the proposed nationwide protest by the union does not amount to contempt. According to him, after withdrawing the contempt proceedings against the NLC and TUC for their protest on August 2, 2023, the Federal Government’s subsequent threat of contempt against the NLC for organising another protest on February 27 and 28, 2024, to protest the rising cost of living, appears contradictory and inconsistent. He contended that the proposed public protest of the NLC is not contemptuous of the two ex parte orders of the National Industrial Court (NIC).

In a letter dated February 24, 2024, addressed to the Minister of Justice and the Attorney General of the Federation, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), Falana insisted that the issue of contempt does not arise as the NLC had challenged the jurisdiction of the NIC to entertain the substantive case. 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. “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 the 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.” Falana also claimed that the Industrial Court never barred the TUC and NLC from exercising their fundamental rights to freedom of expression to protest against the hardship in the country. Besides, he said the judgement of the apex court in the case between the Inspector General of Police and All Nigeria Peoples party upheld the fundamental right of Nigerians to protest on matters of public interest without needing to get a police permit.

Falana said: “It is further submitted that the National Industrial Court has not restrained the members of the NLC from exercising their fundamental rights to freedom of assembly and freedom of expression to protest against the excruciating economic pains being experienced by the masses. “In the case of InspectorGeneral of Police v All Nigeria Peoples Party (2008) 12 WRN 65, the Court of Appeal upheld the fundamental right of Nigerians to protest on matters of public interest without a police permit. In the leading judgment of the Court, Olufunmilayo Adekeye JCA (as she then was).”

Falana noted that he had advised the NLC to go ahead with the proposed protest in a peaceful manner, urging the AGF to ensure the IGP provides adequate security for the protesters. Falana’s letter was in response to the one earlier written by the AGF, urging him to prevail on the NLC and TUC to shelve the proposed nationwide protest. Fagbemi, had in his letter, noted that embarking on the protest would amount to contempt as there was a subsisting order of court restraining the organised labour from embarking on any industrial action.

Read Previous

GDP: Banks lead financial institutions in N12.49trn contributions

Read Next

No plans to cancel NACCIMA/Qatar Business, Investment Forum in Doha