He Nigerian Labor Congress (CNL), the Trade Union Congress (TUC) and its affiliates, including the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), launched a nationwide strike on Tuesday, defying a restrictive court order prohibiting them from embarking on industrial action.
The two main unions, NLC and TUC, had declared strike action following the brutality suffered by NLC Chairman Joe Ajaero in Imo State on November 1. Ajaero was attacked in Owerri, the state capital, during an NLC protest against the Imo State government over alleged mistreatment of workers in the state.
On Monday, unions ordered their members to stop working nationwide starting Tuesday.
This is despite the restraining order issued on Friday by the National Labor Court, Abuja, which prevented the unions from embarking on the strike. Judge Benedict Kanyip ordered the two main unions to end their strike scheduled for November 14.
The interim order came following an ex parte request by the Nigerian government through the office of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, due to the threat by the unions to go on strike.
Ignoring the court order, ASUU President Emmanuel Osodeke, a professor of soil sciences, on Monday ordered compliance with the strike declaration in a letter addressed to ASUU zonal coordinators and branch presidents across the country. .
“As an affiliate of NLC, all members of our union are hereby directed to join this action of NLC to protect the interests of Nigerian workers and the leadership of the union. Zone Coordinators and Branch Presidents must immediately mobilize our members to take action,” ASUU President Mr Osodeke wrote in a letter to the union’s Zone and Branch Presidents.
When Newslodge asked Mr Osodeke if he was aware of the current court order stopping the strike, he said the question should be directed to the NLC that called the strike.
“Call the NLC, ASUU did not declare a strike, the NLC declared a strike. Call NLC,” he said in a telephone interview on Tuesday morning.
But NLC Chief Information Officer Benson Upah did not respond to phone calls and messages sent to his line seeking comment, at the time of filing this report.
The unions on Monday refused to recognize the court order and ordered their members to withdraw their services starting Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the presidency called the strike an illegal and unjustified act, calling it blackmail against the government.
A statement on Monday by the Special Adviser to the President on Information and Strategy, Bayo Onanuga, said the government still did not understand why the unions would punish an entire country of more than 200 million people over a personal matter involving the NLC chairman. . .
On Monday, the Federal Attorney General’s Office also warned unions against the strike, asking them to respect the current court order, which it said had been notified to them.
The office urged unions not to embark on what it described as an act of contempt after receiving the court order.
This is not the first time that the five-and-a-half-month-old administration of President Bola Tinubu has accused unions of contempt of court over strike declarations.
The federal government, through the AGF office, has been embroiled in legal battles with the leaders of the NLC and the TUC over the strikes that the unions have declared on different occasions in protest against Tinubu’s announcement to eliminate the subsidy to the fuel in May.
In August, the AGF filed a contempt case seeking to jail union leaders for defying an earlier order by the National Industrial Court in Abuja preventing them from embarking on a strike over the removal of fuel subsidy.
But the government, about a week later, withdrew the contempt suit to continue negotiations with the unions.
It has become common for the federal government to rush to the National Labor Court to obtain ex parte restraining orders preventing major labor unions from embarking on nationwide strikes.
READ ALSO: Imo attack: NLC and TUC to start national strike at midnight
Since the time of President Muhammadu Buhari’s government, the federal government has, on countless occasions, obtained court orders to stop strikes declared by doctors, health workers, ASUU and NLC with the TUC.
But unions often accuse the federal government of resorting to legal action as a pressure strategy against them, without making any tangible commitment to meet their demands.