Tinubu’s Subsidy Removal: Falana tells NLC, TUC to protest August 2

Human rights lawyer Femi Falana says it is lawful for the Nigeria Labour Congress and its affiliates can go on strike and protest as planned despite an ongoing lawsuit.

This is contained in a letter from the Falana Falana Chambers, solicitors to the NLC, by Sam Ogala, titled ‘Re- NLC in contemt of Court’, addressed to the permanent secretary/solicitor-general, federal ministry of justice on July 28.

According to the senior advocate, the decision of Nigerian workers to participate in peaceful rallies is for the interest of the masses and to protest the worsening economic crisis.

“You were reported to have accused the leaders of the Nigeria Labour Congress of treating the order of the National Industrial Court with contempt. Contrary to your unwarranted allegation, the Nigeria Labour Congress does not intend to disobey the ex parte order of the National Industrial Court,” the letter stated.

It added, “And to the effect that ‘the defendants/respondents are hereby restrained from embarking on the planned industrial action/or strike of any nature, pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice dated June 5’.”

Mr Falana added that the court or any other court had not granted an order of interim, interlocutory or perpetual injunction restraining Nigerians from participating in peaceful rallies convened by the NLC.

He argued that it was the constitutional right of Nigerians to protest peacefully and that could not be translated as embarking on a strike.

“It is pertinent to draw your attention to the case of inspector general of police vs Nigeria People Party (2008) of where the court 12 WRN 65, where the court upheld the fundamental right of Nigerians to protest without police permit in the leading judgment of the court, Justice Adekeye,” Mr Falana explained. “This includes the right to demonstrate, and the right to protest on matters of public concern are rights which are in the public interest and that which individuals must possess, and which they should exercise without impediment as long as no wrongful act is done.”

The requirement of permit as a “conditionality” to holding meetings and rallies could no longer be justified in a democratic society, stated the lawyer.

“Our legislature must guard these rights jealously as they are part of the foundation upon which the government itself rests. Having advised the NLC and its allies to conduct the rallies peacefully, you may wish to advise the Nigeria Police Force to comply with section 83(4) of the Police Establishment Act 2020,” the letter stressed.

The court on June 5 restrained the NLC and the Trade Union Congress from embarking on strike to protest the removal of petrol subsidy by President Bola Tinubu’s government.

The court, in a ruling that was delivered by Justice O. Y. Anuwe, barred the two organisations from going on strike, pending the determination of a suit brought by Mr Tinubu’s government.

The court held that the interim order, as well as the substantive suit, should be immediately served on both the NLC and the TUC, which were cited as defendants/respondents in the suit marked NICN/ABJ/158/2023.

The court order followed an ex parte application that the government filed.

On July 27, the government said the proposed strike by the NLC over the subsidy removal and its attendant hardships is in contempt of an order of the court.

Solicitor-general of the federation Beatrice Jeddy-Agba, in a statement on the issue, warned the NLC leadership to desist from treating court orders with disdain.

The NLC, on July 19, issued a notice to begin a nationwide strike on August 2 to protest.