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Falana Writes FG, Says NLC Not In Contempt Of Court.

He insisted that Nigerians don’t require permit to demonstrate in public interest matters

Mixed reactions have continued to trail the planned nationwide protest by organised labour, with lawyer to the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC), Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), faulting the position of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), that the proposed action over the current harsh economic conditions was in breach of the order of court.

Following astronomical increase in the prices of basic necessities occasioned by the free fall of the naira in relation to major foreign currencies, the umbrella body of workers in Nigeria, NLC, had scheduled a nationwide protest for February 27 and 28.

Responding at the weekend, the federal government, through the AGF, warned against the planned demonstration, arguing that it is in violation of a court order and would amount to contempt of court. The AGF gave the warning in a letter dated February 23, which was addressed to Falana.

However, Falana in his reply to Fagbemi, dated February 24, argued that there was no order restraining labour from embarking on the February 27 and 28 protest over worsening economic conditions.

The rights activist argued that the threat of the AGF was baseless, since he had withdrawn the contempt proceedings filed against NLC and TUC for embarking on public protest on August 2, 2023.

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

It is further submitted that the NIC 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.”

The senior lawyer recalled that following the removal of fuel subsidy by President Bola Tinubu on May 29, 2023, the federal government had commenced negotiations with the two workers’ unions, as the subsidy removal policy had brought untold hardship to Nigerians.

Falana recalled that while the negotiations were in progress, the Federal Ministry of Justice rushed to the NIC to file suit No NICN/ABJ/158/2023 between the Federal Government of Nigeria & Anor. v Nigeria Labour Congress & Anor in respect of the same issues.

He stated, “On June 5, 2023, Justice Yemi Anuwe granted the application of the federal government for an exparte order to restrain the NLC and TUC from embarking on strike against the removal of fuel subsidy. Although both the NLC and TUC complied with the exparte order, they promptly filed an application to set aside same for want of jurisdiction.

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