Four days prior to the expiration of NLC’s deadline for the government to drop the contempt charges or risk an indefinite nationwide strike, the Federal Government withdrew the contempt charge against the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC, and its leaders.
This was contained in a letter to Falana & Falana’ Chambers, Counsel, to NLC, Solicitor-General of the Federation and Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Justice, Mrs B.E. Jeddy-Agba.
It reads thus “The attention of the Federal Ministry of Justice has been drawn to the Communiqué issued by the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, on August 3, 2023, wherein NLC announced the suspension of its nationwide protests and criticised the contempt summons issued by the National Industrial Court (“Court”), amongst other issues.
“Kindly recall the exchange of correspondence between the Ministry and your Office on the need for compliance with the extant court orders, restraining industrial action of any kind on the part of the Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress. The position of the Ministry was informed by the need to safeguard the integrity of the court and prevent avoidable service disruption or damages to public facilities.
“However, despite these exchanges/interventions, the labour unions on 2nd August 2023 proceeded with the industrial action through public protests which led to disruption of work and the eventual pulling down of the gate of the National Assembly. The foregoing prompted the Ministry to initiate contempt proceedings by filing Form 48 on the same 2nd August 2023 in accordance with Section 72 of the Sheriffs and Civil Process Act and Order 9 Rule 13 of the Judgment (Enforcement) Rules. It is trite that issuance of Form 48 is just the starting point in contempt proceedings which will only crystalize upon the issuance of Form 49 and the consequential committal order.
“Upon the intervention of His Excellency, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the decision of the labour unions to call off their industrial action after meetings with the President and leadership of the National Assembly, this Ministry did not proceed further with the contempt proceedings, which would have required the issuance of Form 49 within two days of the issuance of Form 48. “It is self-evident that the non-issuance of Form 49 as of 4th August 2023, renders the contempt proceedings inchoate.
“You may therefore wish to advise or guide the labour unions on the practice and procedure of contempt proceedings, particularly to the effect that the issues or concerns raised by NLC in its communiqué on the proceedings have been overtaken by events.”