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NLC / TUC Protests: Falana Writes AGF, Lateef Fagbemi, Seeks Restraints Of Clampdown On Labour By FG

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… Seeks IGP Protection For NLC, TUC During Protests

By Falayi Olanrewaju

BAO Felicitation

Courses under Mass Communication and Media Technology includes:
- Advertising
- ⁠Broadcasting
- Development Communications⁠
- Film and Multimedia
- Information and Media Studies⁠
- ⁠⁠Journalism and Media Studies
- ⁠Mass Communications
- ⁠Public Relations
- ⁠Strategic Communication

BAO Felicitation

Courses under Mass Communication and Media Technology includes:
- Advertising
- ⁠Broadcasting
- Development Communications⁠
- Film and Multimedia
- Information and Media Studies⁠
- ⁠⁠Journalism and Media Studies
- ⁠Mass Communications
- ⁠Public Relations
- ⁠Strategic Communication

BAO Felicitation

Courses under Mass Communication and Media Technology includes:
- Advertising
- ⁠Broadcasting
- Development Communications⁠
- Film and Multimedia
- Information and Media Studies⁠
- ⁠⁠Journalism and Media Studies
- ⁠Mass Communications
- ⁠Public Relations
- ⁠Strategic Communication

Human Rights Activist and Constitutional Lawyer, Barrister Femi Falana, SAN, has written the Attorney General of the Federation, AGF, Mr Lateef Fagbemi, in a letter dated 24th of February, 2024; and seeking for restraints of the Nigeria Police Force from clamping down on the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC and the Trade Union Congress, TUC, on their rights to protest by the Federal Government. 

Femi Falana stated the above in the letter he personally signed and addressed to the Honourable Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, AGF, Mr Lateef Fagbemi, where he cautioned him from deny the NLC and TUC their fundamental rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly to protest as provided for in the Country’s constitution. 

According to Falana, he urged Nigerians to recall how the removal of fuel subsidy by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu on May 29, 2023, led the Federal Government to open negotiations with the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, and the Trade Union Congress, TUC, as a result of how the removal of the subsidy had brought unto hardship on Nigerians.

Falana in his letter, revealed that, “while the negotiations were in progress, the Federal Ministry of Justice rushed to the National Industrial Court to file Suit No NICN/ABJ/158/2023 between Federal Government of Nigeria & Anor. vs Nigeria Labour Congress & Anor in respect of the same issues. On June 5, 2023 the Honourable Justice Yemi Anuwe granted the application of the Federal Government for an ex parte order to restrain the NLC and TUC from embarking on strike against the removal of fuel subsidy. 

Continuing, “Falana opined that despite that both the NLC and TUC complied with the ex parte order, they promptly filed an application to set aside same for want of jurisdiction. They equally asked for a stay of execution of the order the ex parte pending the determination of the motion. The application to set aside the ex parte order filed by the Defendants and the motion for interlocutory injunction filed by the Claimants have not been considered as parties resolved to settle the case out of court.

Falana further averred that, “though the parties signed a 16-point memorandum of understanding, the Federal Government did not implement all the terms of the Agreement. Hence, on August 2, 2023, both NLC and TUC held a peaceful protest throughout the country”. 

He queried the Federal Government for failing to accede to the implementation of their agreements with the NLC and TUC despite initiating contempt proceedings against the FG at the National Industrial Court. 

Falana however wondered why the Federal Government refused to challenged the competence of the contempt proceedings but turned round to withdraw their application for the contempt.

“On November 10, 2023, the Federal Government filed another Suit, No NICN/ABJ/322/2023 between Federal Government of Nigeria & Anor at the National Industrial Court against the NLC and TUC, notwithstanding the pendency of Suit No. Suit No NICN/ABJ/158/2023. 

“On that same day, the President of the National Industrial Court, the Honourable Justice Benedict Kanyip granted an ex parte order to restrain the NLC and TUC from embarking on the planned strike. However, His Lordship directed that the case file be transferred to Justice Olufunke Yemi Anuwe who is handling a similar labour dispute between the same parties. Both NLC and TUC challenged the competence of the fresh suit on the ground that it constitutes a gross abuse of court process, inter alia. The application has not been heard and determined by the National Industrial Court. 

Falana argued that, “having withdrawn the contempt proceedings filed against the NLC and TUC for embarking on public protest on August 2, 2023, he faulted the FG’s decision to threatened the NLC with contempt of court over its plan to hold rallies from February 27-28, 2024 against the astronomical cost of living in the country”.

Falana in his further argument, submitted, that, “without any fear of contradiction, that the proposed public protest of the NLC is not contemptuous of the two ex parte orders of the National Industrial Court. But that, in particular, the issue of contempt does not arise as the NLC has challenged the jurisdiction of the National Industrial Court to entertain the substantive case”. 

He also further submitted that the National Industrial Court has not restrained the members of the NLC from exercising their fundamental rights to freedom of assembly and freedom of expression to protest against the excruciating economic pains being experienced by the masses. In the case of Inspector- General of Police v All Nigeria Peoples Party (2008) 12 WRN 65, the Court of Appeal upheld the fundamental right of Nigerians to protest on matters of public interest without police permit. In the leading judgment of the Court, Olufunmilayo Adekeye JCA (as she then was) held inter alia:

He equally reminded the AGF that both the NLC and the TUC deserves the right to demonstrate and the right to protest on matters of public concern, which are in the public interest and that which individuals must possess, and exercise without impediment as long as no wrongful act is done or committed. 

“If as speculated by law enforcement agents that breach of the peace would occur, he said the Country’s criminal code has made adequate provisions for sanctions against breakdown of law and order so that the requirement of permit as a conditionality to holding meetings and rallies can no longer be justified in a democratic society.”

“Since freedom of speech and freedom of assembly are part of the democratic rights of every citizen of Nigeria, the Court of Appeal further held that, ‘the legislature must guard these rights jealously as they are part of the foundation upon which the government itself rests'”.

“Consequently, the National Assembly has ensured that the right of aggrieved citizens to protest peacefully for or against the Government is protected. Thus, section 83(4) of the Police Establishment Act 2020, which states that, ‘where a person or organization notifies the police of his or its intention to hold a public meeting, rally or procession on a public highway or such meetings in a place where the public has access to, the police officer responsible for the area where the meeting rally or procession will take place shall mobilize personnel to provide security to provide security cover for the meeting, rally or the procession'”.

Meanwhile, Mr Femi Falana in the said letter, who advised the members of the NLC to conduct the rallies scheduled for February 27-28, 2024 in a peaceful manner, urged the AGF, Mr Lateef Fagbemi to use his good offices to direct the Inspector General of Police, IGP, to provide adequate security to the conveners and participants in the protest in line with the provisions of Section 83(4) of the Police Establishment Act.


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