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Nigeria: Fuel Subsidy Removal – Nigerian Govt Warns Labour Against Strike


The warning came hours after the NLC issued notice to begin a nationwide strike on 2 August amid an astronomical hike in petrol pump prices following the removal of fuel subsidy.

The Nigerian government has warned the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) against embarking on strike over the removal of fuel subsidy by President Bola Tinubu’s administration.

The government issued the warning on Wednesday through a statement by the Federal Ministry of Justice, saying any industrial action embarked upon by the union with respect to the removal of fuel subsidy would amount to contempt of court.

“It is, therefore, our minimum expectation that NLC will allow the courts perform their constitutional roles rather than resorting to self-help and undermining the orders of the court,” the statement signed by the Solicitor-General of the Federation and Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Justice Permanent, Beatrice Jedy-Agba, read in part.

The statement is a reminder to the union of an order issued by the National Industrial Court in Abuja on 5 June, restraining the organised Labour comprising the NLC, the Trade Union Congress (TUC) and their affiliates from embarking on strike.

“It is noted that the issues (removal of fuel subsidy, hike in prices of petrol and consequential increase in the cost of living, etc.) which precipitated the above court action are the very same issues over which NLC has now issued another strike notice.

“The NLC has submitted to the jurisdiction of the court and is being represented by the reputable law firm of Femi Falana, SAN. It is, therefore, our minimum expectation that NLC will allow the courts to perform their constitutional roles rather than resorting to self-help and undermining the orders of the court,” the statement read in part.

Ms Jedy-Agba, who runs the justice ministry pending when the minister will be appointed, also remarked that the planned strike by the NLC was a mark of the union’s disdain for the judiciary.

“We note with dismay that this latest strike notice is consistent with the inexplicable disdain which the NLC leadership has visited on the authority of the court in recent times following earlier inciting and derogatory remarks made by the NLC President against the court.

“Indeed, the avowed penchant of the leadership of the union for casting aspersions on the Judiciary is quite worrisome and concerning,” she said.

Strike

The NLC, on Wednesday, issued a notice to begin a nationwide strike on 2 August to protest the removal of fuel subsidy amid an astronomical hike in the pump price of petrol resulting from the policy announced by President Bola Tinubu at his inauguration on 29 May.

Both the TUC and the NLC had declared a strike in the wake of the announcement of the major policy shift but later dropped the plan at the last minute after a marathon of meetings with the federal government.

While negotiations with the Labour leaders were ongoing, the federal government approached the National Industrial Court in Abuja and, on 5 June, obtained a court order to stop the strike.

The Labour leaders dropped the strike plan in succumbing to the court order and the promise by the government to implement a number of palliative measures.

Despite their frantic efforts to have the court order set aside, the judge, Olufunke Anuwe, rather reaffirmed it on 19 June.

The application by Labour to have the court lift the order banning the strike was still pending in court as of when the NLC declared a new strike on Monday.

Meanwhile, the committee set up by the government to negotiate with the NLC and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) on subsidy removal has not made much progress.

A few days after the President removed the fuel subsidy, the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL) announced a new price regime ranging from N537 to N600 per litre of petrol.

On Tuesday last week, the NNPCL further pushed the price to N617 per litre, saying market forces informed it.

Prices of goods and services, including food and transport fares, have skyrocketed in response to the hike in pump prices across the country, adding to the economic woes of millions of Nigerians struggling to meet their basic needs.

Many have resorted to trekking long distances to reduce the cost of transportation.

NLC’s threat of strike action came a few hours after the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) began an indefinite strike.

Mrs Jedy-Agba advised Labour to rescind their decision to embark on the planned strike in honour of efforts governments at various levels are making to cushion the effect of the hike in petrol price and “to avert adverse consequences”.

Read the full statement of the Federal Ministry of Justice below:

PRESS RELEASE ON NOTICE OF STRIKE ACTION ISSUED BY NIGERIA LABOUR CONGRESS IN CONTEMPT OF ORDER OF THE NATIONAL INDUSTRIAL COURT

The attention of the Federal Ministry of Justice has been drawn to media reports indicating that the National President (Joe Ajaero) and Secretary- General (Emmanuel Ugboaja, mni) of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) endorsed a 7-day notice of their intention to embark on a nationwide strike action from 2nd August 2023 if the demands of the labour unions are not met.

2. It is pertinent to alert members of the NLC and the general public to the pendency of SUIT NO: NICN/ABJ/158/2023 – FEDERAL GOVERNMENT OF NIGERIA & ANOR V. NIGERIAN LABOUR CONGRESS & ANOR before the National Industrial Court, wherein His Lordship, Anuwe, J., on 5th June 2023 granted an injunctive order restraining Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress from embarking on the planned industrial action/or strike of any nature, pending the hearing and determination of the pending Motion on Notice, which is also praying for an order of interlocutory injunction for parties to maintain status quo pending the determination of the dispute or issues submitted to the court. The said Motion on Notice is still pending.

3. It is noted that the issues (removal of fuel subsidy, hike in prices of petrol and consequential increase in cost of living, etc) which precipitated the above court action are the very same issues over which NLC has now issued another strike notice. The NLC has submitted to the jurisdiction of the court and is being represented by the reputable law firm of Femi Falana, SAN. It is therefore our minimum expectation that NLC will allow the courts perform their constitutional roles rather than resorting to self-help and undermining the orders of the court.