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Labour free to protest or go on strike, Falana counters FG

Human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, says the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and its affiliates can proceed on the August 2 strike and protest as planned,…

Human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, says the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and its affiliates can proceed on the August 2 strike and protest as planned, saying the exercise does not translate to contempt of court as averred by the federal government.

The legal luminary, who is the counsel to the organised labour, argued that no court in the land has issued a perpetual injunction restraining Nigerian workers from participating in peaceful rallies convened by the NLC.

Recall that the Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Justice, who doubles as the Solicitor-General of the Federation, had a few days ago said the labour movement intended to disobey the ex parte order of the National Industrial Court restraining it from the action.

But Falana, in a clarification letter directed to the Permanent Secretary, faulted the claim that the organised labour would go in contempt of court by embarking on nationwide strike or protest against present fuel hike occasioned by subsidy removal.

The letter dated July 28, 2023 and signed by Barr. Sam Ogala of Falana’s Chamber, copies of which were made available to Labour Correspondents at Labour House, Abuja on Sunday, noted that rights to peaceful protest has not been removed from the constitution.

The letter read, “In your reaction to the decision of Nigerian workers to participate in peaceful rallies to protest the worsening economic crisis in the country you were reported to have accused the leaders of the Nigeria Labour Congress of treating the order of the National Industrial Court with contempt.

“Contrary to your unwarranted allegation, the Nigeria Labour Congress does not intend to disobey the ex parte order of the National Industrial Court to the effect that “The defendants/Respondents are hereby restrained from embarking on the planned Industrial Action/or strike of any nature, pending the hearing and determination of the Motion on Notice dated 5th June 2023.

“You will agree us that the National Industrial Court or any other Court has not granted an order of interim, interlocutory or perpetual injunction restraining Nigerian workers from participating in peaceful rallies convened by the Nigeria Labour Congress.

“Since the constitutional right of Nigerian workers to protest peacefully cannot by any stretch of imagination be classified as an Industrial action or strike of any nature, you ought not have threatened our client with contempt of court.

“It is pertinent to draw your attention to the case of INSPECTOR-GENERAL OF POLICE vs ALL NIGERIA PEOPLES PARTY (2008) 12 WRN 65 where the Court upheld the fundamental right of Nigerians to protest without police permit. In the leading judgment of the Court, Justice Adekeye said as follows:

“The right to demonstrate and the right to protest on matters of public concern are rights which are in the public interest and that which individuals must possess, and which they should exercise without impediment as long as no wrongful act is done.

“If as speculated by law enforcement agents that breach of the peace would occur our 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.

“Finally, freedom of speech and freedom of assembly are part of democratic rights of every citizen of the republic; our legislature must guard these rights jealously as they are part of the foundation upon which the government itself rests.”

The lawyer, however, called on the Federal Government and the Inspector-General of Police to provide adequate security for the protesters while the exercise would last.

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