The Federal Government was negotiating with Labour leaders when it obtained a court order restraining workers from embarking on their planned strike over fuel subsidy removal.
The Labour unions had planned to begin the nationwide strike across all sectors of the economy on Wednesday.
Olufunke Anuwe, the judge, gave the order after hearing an ex parte request from the federal government.
Being an ex parte hearing, it implies Labour representatives and their lawyers were absent during the hearing.
In her ruling, the judge restrained the NLC and the Trade Union Congress (TUC), the respondents in the case, from embarking on the planned strike action, which is expected to commence on Wednesday, 7 June.
Citing the affidavit of the government argued by Maimuna Shiru of the Federal Ministry of Justice, the judge agreed that the strike would disrupt socio-economic activities and unleash hardship on the citizenry.
“The respondents are hereby restrained from embarking on any strike action of any nature pending the determination of the motion on notice dated 5 June,” Ms Anuwe ordered.
The judge further ordered the federal government to serve the originating summons on the NLC and TUC.
Subsequently, the judge adjourned the suit until 19 June.
The judge gave the order on Monday amid ongoing marathon negotiation meetings between the representatives of the federal government and Labour leaders over the fuel subsidy removal.
President Bola Tinubu had, in his inaugural address on 29 May, announced the removal of fuel subsidy.
Shortly after Mr Tinubu’s announcement, the pump price of petrol jumped up by close to 200 per cent.
The hike immediately triggered an increase in transportation fares and prices of goods and services by various percentages.
Strike will cause hardship
To get the court to halt the Labour’s planned strike, Ms Shiru said students of secondary schools across the country who are sitting WAEC examinations, as well as university students, would be negatively impacted by the strike action if allowed.
She argued that the impending industrial action would imperil hospitals and the Nigerian economy.
Considering the government’s arguments, the judge said Section 7(b) of the National Industrial Court (NIC) Act 2006 clothes her court with the jurisdiction to grant any order to restrain any person or body from taking part in any strike, lockout or industrial action.
In addition, the judge noted that sections 16 and 19(a) of the NIC Act 2006 empower the court to make orders or grant urgent interim reliefs.
The judge agreed with the government that the planned strike would disrupt socio-economic activities and cause hardship across Nigeria.
“The urgency enumerated in the affidavit of urgency and counsel’s submission reveals a scenario that may gravely affect the larger society and, indeed, the well-being of the nation at large.
“Counsel has pointed out that students of Secondary Schools nationwide, especially those writing WAEC exams, will be affected; the tertiary institutions who have only just resumed after a long ASUU strike will also be affected, not leaving the health sector, amongst other sectors; and above all, the economy of the nation.
“In my view, this is a situation of extreme urgency that will require the intervention of this court,” the judge said.
Ms Anuwe went on to restrain the NLC and the TUC “from embarking on the planned Industrial Action/or strike of any nature, pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice dated 5th June 2023.
“It is ordered that the defendant/ respondents be immediately served with the originating processes in this suit, the motion on notice, and the order of this court hereby made.
“The motion on notice is hereby fixed for hearing on 19th June 2023. Hearing notices to that effect shall be served on the defendants/respondents along with the other processes,” the judge held.
The suit marked: NCIN/ABJ/158/2023 listed the NLC and TUC as respondents, while the Federal Government of Nigeria and the Attorney-General of the Federation are the claimants.
Labour union’s contention
The President of the NLC, Joe Ajero, has consistently argued that the federal government failed to meet its agreement on how fuel subsidy removal should be done.
Recalling the labour union’s agreement with former president Muhammadu Buhari’s regime, Mr Ajero said the government had agreed to revive its comatose public transportation system by providing buses for the masses of Nigeria.
He also said the government was asked to rehabilitate its ailing refineries in Warri, Delta State, Port-Harcourt in Rivers and Kaduna States for maximum production of PMS to meet local consumption.
But the government reneged on the agreement.
Now, Mr Tinubu’s young administration has grappled with recalcitrant Labour union leaders who have called their members out for a showdown with the government.
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