February 22, 2024

The National Deputy President of the Trade Union Congress, Tommy Etim, on Thursday, berated moves by the Federal Government to hamstring the Organised Labour from embarking on an indefinite nationwide strike from Tuesday, using the courts.

Etim stated that labour leaders would not succumb to any threat by the government, noting that they were ready to go to prison in their fight for better lives for Nigerian workers.

The TUC deputy president said this against the backdrop of the warning by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, that the  proposed strike by the Nigeria Labour Congress and TUC was in contravention of a subsisting court order restraining the unions from declaring an industrial action.

 The NLC and TUC Tuesday announced an indefinite strike with effect from October 3, 2023, to protest the alleged failure of the Federal Government to provide post-subsidy palliatives for workers and implement policies that could alleviate the sufferings of the masses after the removal of the fuel subsidy.

The unions had also directed their state chapters and affiliates to mobilise for the shutdown of critical facilities and infrastructure, including airports, seaports, electricity grids and fuel supply across the country.

However, the AGF in a letter addressed to the counsel to the NLC and TUC, Femi Falana, SAN, reminded them that it was as a result of the disobedience to the order that the ministry of justice filed a contempt proceeding against the labour leaders.

He added that the ministry withdrew the suit following the intervention of President Bola Tinubu and the National Assembly.

Fagbemi stated that from the contents of the communiqué and available media reports, the proposed strike action is connected with the removal of fuel subsidy and provisions of palliative for workers.

Fagbemi said irrespective of their disposition on the matter, the court order must be obeyed unless it is vacated.

He called on Falana to advise the labour leaders to abide by the court judgment to protect its integrity.

But the TUC Deputy President waved off the AGF’s warning, saying the contempt threat would not make the organised labour shelve their planned walkout, noting that the labour leaders were ready to be jailed for their convictions.

He stated, ‘’It is a threat but power belongs to the people. Let them carry all of us to the prisons. I can only answer by saying the end justifies the means. If that is what they want, let’s see what would happen on the 3rd of October. The good thing is that Nigeria is our country. If he would pack all the Nigerian people to prison, there is no problem.

‘’If the government wants to put us in prison, let them put us in prison. Going to prison is not a death sentence. After all, even a (former) president passed through the prison. Didn’t (Segun) Obasanjo go to prison? We are used to threats and it is not going to deter us, we are not cowards.

‘’We are working for the country and if the government feels it wants to put us in prison because we are working for the country, so be it. Let the end justify the means.’’

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