The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) have announced that they will go ahead with the industrial action despite the two court orders restraining them.

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They added that the mobilisation of workers for the strike and protest scheduled to commence on Monday had already commenced.

The NLC President, Ayuba Wabba and his TUC counterpart, Quadri Olaleye, told Saturday PUNCH in separate interviews on Friday that they had not been served the court processes and would therefore not suspend the proposed strike.

The NLC and TUC had jointly declared their readiness to embark on a nationwide strike to compel the Federal Government to reverse the recent hikes in electricity tariffs and petrol pump price.

Justice Ibrahim Galadima of the National Industrial Court in Abuja on Friday issued a fresh restraining order against the unions, following an ex parte application by the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation.

The fresh order came barely 24 hours after the same judge made a similar restraining ex parte order in favour of a group, Peace and Unity Ambassadors Association, on Thursday.

The judge, sitting as a vacation judge, ordered that both the NLC and the TUC joined as the defendants in the suit should be served with the fresh court order within seven days from Friday.

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The Federal Government of Nigeria and the AGF are the plaintiffs in the suit marked NICN/ABJ/257/2020. The ex parte application was signed by the AGF, Abubakar Malami (SAN).

The Acting Director of the Department of Civil Litigation, Federal Ministry of Justice, Mrs Maimuna Shiru, moved the ex parte application on behalf of the plaintiffs on Friday.

The judge ruled, “Upon careful evaluation and consideration of the motion ex parte filed by these claimants/applicants before me on this date, and after perusing the deposition contained in the affidavit in support as well as the affidavit of the urgency, I am convinced that the said application is meritorious and the same is granted as sought.

“Consequently, the order of interim injunction restraining the defendant is hereby granted as sought. The defendants/respondents shall be served within seven days from today (Friday) with the motion on notice as well as the other originating processes for the purpose of determining them by this court.”

The judge ordered that “the case file shall be remitted to the Honourable President of National Industrial Court of Nigeria for reassignment to the substantive judge.”

“Hearing date shall be issued and served on all parties accordingly,” he added.

But responding to Saturday PUNCH’s questions, Wabba in a series of text messages to one of our correspondents stated that the NLC union had not been served with both court orders.

He stated, “We have not been served with the order of any court. The right to assemble peacefully and protest is guaranteed by the Nigerian constitution. It’s a universal right; our political elite exercised this right without hindrance.

“It could be recalled that the dialogue between the Federal Government and organised labour ended after 9 PM yesterday (Thursday) where the government team adjourned the meeting for consultation.”

Wabba said, “The social media reported a court order obtained by an NGO which we were not served. We are equally not served any court process by the government.

“I think it’s meant to divert attention from the issues at stake. We have not been put on notice or served any process.”

Similarly, when asked if the strike would proceed as planned if the dialogue between the unions and the Federal Government scheduled to continue on Monday failed to yield fruits, the TUC president said “yes”.

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At the second meeting held at the Presidential Villa Banquet Hall on Thursday evening, the Federal Government team and the labour representatives also failed to reach a resolution prompting the adjournment of the dialogue to Monday.

To avert the strike, the government reportedly offered palliatives, including mass and affordable housing for workers and the procurement of transport buses to help reduce the impact of the rise in fuel price.

The NLC President had said the hikes, coupled with the increase of Value Added Tax to 7.5 per cent and numerous charges by commercial banks on depositors’ funds, all in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic were not only ill-timed but also counterproductive. He said these would further impoverish Nigerian workers, citizens and their families.

Aviation unions to back strike

In a related development, four aviation unions have backed the strike action proposed by the Organised Labour.

The National Union of Air Transport Employees, National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers, Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria and the Association of Nigerian Aviation Professionals in a joint statement on Friday, therefore, directed all workers in the sector to withdraw their services nationwide, which might disrupt flights across the airports.

NUPENG mobilise members for strike

The Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers also said it had mobilised oil workers across the country in line with NLC’s directive.

NUPENG in a letter dated September 24, signed by the General-Secretary, Afolabi Olawale, directed the chairmen/heads of administration, Port Harcourt, Lagos, Warri and Kaduna zonal councils to mobilise oil workers for the industrial action.