Fuel Price Hike: Court Stops Labour Planned Strike, Senate Supports Hike

The planned strike action by the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) overfuel price hike has been halted.

The National Industrial Court in Abuja stopped the trade unions from embarking on a strike action Wednesfay following a suit brought before it by the Federal Government.

In a ruling on Tuesday, the NIC President, Justice Babatunde Adejumo, restrained the labour unions from going on strike, pending the determination of the suit.

Justice Adejumo further ordered all the parties to maintain status quo until the legal dispute is settled.

This is as the Fedetal Government filed an ex-parte application by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN) to stop the mass action.

AGF had approached the NIC, begging it to restrain the labour unions from “shutting down the nation”.

Relying on section 14 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, Federal Government insisted that it would not be “in the national interest” for the NLC and TUC to proceed on nationwide strike over the fuel price increase.

Malami argued that ‎no amount of damages could serve as compensation if the labour unions were allowed to shut down the economy.

Contending that the balance of convenience was in favour of the government, the AGF prayed the court to determine “Whether the respondents (NLC, Trade Union Congress) have complied with the laid down condition precedent for embarking on strike‎”.

As well as, “Whether indeed there exist in law and in fact the basis of which the respondents’ total closure of the economy can be justified”.

He told the court that the respondents met on Saturday and issued a communique wherein it gave government a three-day ultimatum to reverse the decision increasing fuel price.

He said the respondents, aside threatening to shut down the country if government failed to reverse the fuel price increase, equally threatened to close down all government offices, seaport, airports and markets.

The AGF argued that ordinary and law abiding citizens would be subjected to hardship if the respondents were allowed to go ahead with their threat.

He said the government was left with no alternative but to seek the intervention of the court.

Besides, Malami told the court that he got notice of the communique on Sunday and quickly filed an originating summons, a motion on notice and an ex-parte application to determine whether NLC’s decision was justifi‎ed in the circumstance.

He insisted that “great and irreparable damage” would be done against the nation and “ordinary and law abiding citizens”, should the court refuse the ex-parte application.

The labour unions had in a communique they issued at the end of an emergency meeting the held on Saturday, vowed to embark on a nationwide industrial action should the federal government refuse to reverse the sudden hike in the price of fuel.

This is even as Nigeria’s organised labour is still engaged in a make or mar negotiation with officials of the Federal Government on Tuesday.

Federal Government’s team is led by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), David Babachir Lawal.

The meeting, which ended in a deadlock on Monday is reported to be ongoing, Tuesday, when the AGF went to court.

Governor of Edo State, Adams Oshiomhole, who is a former president of the NLC and several other government officials are also attending the meeting.

The meeting which was summoned at the instance of the SGF is being held to avert the proposed nationwide strike by the Nigeria Labour Congress(NLC) and Trade Union Congress(TUC), scheduled for Wednesday, May 18.

Oshiomhole had earlier met with the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo at the Presidential Villa ostensibly to harmonise Federal Government’s position before the parley with labou.

Other workers’ unions are also said to be attending the meeting.

Meanwhile, the Senate in its plenary Tuesday, said it supported the Federal Government’s decision to increase the pump price of petrol to N145.

The new price was announced last week by the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Ibe Kachikwu.

The Senate, after an executive session on Tuesday, announced its decision to support the government.

Giving the report of the executive session, the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, said the lawmakers deliberated on the price hike and the threat by the NLC.

“The Senate sympathise with the people of Nigeria on the hardship brought by the hike,” Ekweremadu said.

Stating further, he said the Senate resolved to engage the Labour on the need to suspend its planned strike “in order not to ground the system”.

He also said the Senate would engage the government on “how best” the policy could be sustained and implemented.

The Senate, Ekweremadu said, urged the Federal Government to start implementung the palliative measures as approved in the 2016 Appropriations Act to assuage the suffering of the people.

On Monday, the House of Representatives also urged the NLC to suspend the planned strike and set up an ad hoc committee to interface between Labour and the government.

The House committee is headed by its Whip, Ado Doguwa, and was given five days to submit its report.

 

Author: News Editor

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