Beatrice Jedy-Agba, the Solicitor-General of the Federation, says the ministry did not threaten the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) over the planned strike.
This is contained in a letter addressed to the counsel for the NLC, Messrs. Falana & Falana’s Chambers, on Monday in Abuja by Jedy-Agba.
In the letter, she said the ministry simply drew the attention of the NLC to a pending court order.
The letter copied the National Security Adviser, Director-General, State Security Services, and the Inspector General of Police.
The permanent secretary was reacting to a letter written to it by the NLC through Falana and Falana’s Chambers, part of which reads: RE: NLC NOT IN CONTEMPT OF COURT.
“Please refer to your correspondence dated July 28, 2023, as it relates to the proposed nationwide action by the Nigerian Labour Congress.
“This Ministry has perused the said correspondence, which clearly misconstrued the reported position of this Ministry, and we deem it fit to put the issues in their proper perspective as follows: Parties are expected to maintain the status quo even in the absence of a restraining order.
“However, there was no threat of contempt of court in the clarification provided by this Ministry. Undoubtedly, drawing the attention of the NLC and the public to the pendency of the order cannot be equated with threats,” she said.
She noted that the issue of peaceful protests and police permits were also not in contention.
“You may wish to be guided by the contents of the Communique issued by the National Executive Council of NLC at the end of its meeting of 27 July 2023.
“The decision or projected cause of action by NLC are directed principally in furtherance of issues connected with a hike in fuel price and consequential matters of palliatives and workers welfare.
“We assert that it is grossly inappropriate to lead public protest in respect of issues relating to or connected with fuel price increase, which are currently before the court”, she said.
“From the communique, it is apparent that the current move by NLC goes beyond peaceful protest by issuing a seven-day ultimatum for government to meet its demands and also embark on a nationwide action to compel government to reverse alleged anti-worker policies’’.
According to her, `uncontroverted media reports have established that NLC is not planning a peaceful protest but intending to ground the government by endangering public peace, instilling fear in the masses, precipitating a further crisis.
“The Assistant General Secretary of NLC, stated thus: “Nigerians should be prepared. That’s what we are saying. Being prepared means you have to stock food in your house and be economical with your movement at this particular point in time so as to avoid being stranded.
“In the same vein, the Nigeria Union of Petroleum & Natural Gas Workers and National Union of Electricity Employees, confirmed that they were working towards grounding supply of fuel and the national electricity grid.
“The Acting General Secretary of NUEE stated thus: “The NUEE is an affiliate of the NLC and I’ve told you that we will join the strike action’’.
She said: “that means that if there’s a deadlock between labour and the government; the mass protest is still going on, and definitely electricity workers, as an affiliate of the NLC, will partake in the mass protest.
“So, all workers in the power sector will join the mass protest, it is binding on every staff member to join the strike action. So, if it results in a blackout, the only option is for the government to listen to us if it wants power to return.
“We reiterate that the interim order clearly restrained NLC from embarking on industrial action of any nature, it is common knowledge that strike is only a form of industrial action.
“The participation of workers in the protest will result in restriction, or limitation on, or a delay in the performance of work’’.
Jedy-Agba said that it is incumbent on Messrs Falana & Falana’s Chambers to sensitize the labour unions that peaceful protests are no justification for disrupting or shutting down essential services, which is tantamount to strike action.
“Based on the foregoing, you may wish to advise your clients accordingly. Please accept the assurance of my esteemed regards’’, she advised.