Saturday , June 22 2024

STOP BLACKMAILING US & MISREPRESENTING THE LAW – NLC TELLS MRS JEDY-AGBA

Press Statement
27/07/2023

STOP BLACKMAILING US & MISREPRESENTING THE LAW*
—– NLC TELLS MRS JEDY-AGBA

Our attention has been drawn to the reaction of the Solicitor-General of the Federation and Permanent Secretary (PS), Ministry of Justice, Mrs B.E. Jedy-Agba to our notice of protest against the latest pump price of pms.

Mrs B.E. Jedy-Agba in a statement said unprintable things about the Nigeria Labour Congress.

First she said the National Industrial Court of Nigeria has restrained the Nigeria Labour Congress “from embarking on the planned industrial action/or strike of any nature, pending the hearing and determination of the pending motion on notice”.

Not satisfied with this imperious claim, she resorted to back blackmail thus: “The NLC has submitted to the jurisdiction of the court and is being represented by the reputable law firm of Femi Falana, SAN. It is therefore our minimum expectation that the NLC will allow the courts to perform their constitutional roles rather than resort to self-help and undermining the orders of the court”.

And then to the malicious statement thus:
“We note with dismay that this latest strike notice is consistent with the inexplicable disdain which the NLC leadership has visited on the authority of the court in recent times following their earlier inciting and derogatory remarks made by the NLC President against the court”.

And finally, the lie:
“Aside from the legal inhibition against any strike action of any nature, we also note that both the federal and state governments are engaging with stake holders to cushion the collateral effect of fuel the removal of fuel subsidy and increment in fuel price”.

We are concerned about the comments of Mrs Jedy-Agba for their untruths, malice, blackmail and deficiency in law.

The restraining order which Mrs Jedy-Agba talks about pertains to our notice of strike in early June as a result of the increase in pump price of pms from N190 to N537. We are not aware it is a perpetual injuction which covers anything/everything Congress does from now to eternity. This certainly will go against the grain of justice.

It is important to note that our present notice of peaceful protest in conjuction with civil societies, individulas, associations and communities of the willing, has nothing to do with the previous increase by the NNPC but has everything to do with market forces that propelled pump prices to new heights of N617. This is a new matter entirely which the previous order did not contemplate or affect.

Happily, a representative of government at the meeting of the Steering Committee with NLC yesterday, Wednesday, July 26, 2023, said the matter for discussion at the meeting was the first increase, making it clear that the new increase was outside the mandate of the Committee.

In light of this, we consider it highly dangerous for the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Justice, now a self-appointed spokes person of the Government and perhaps, the Courts, has elected to add to the issues in dispute issues not contemplated by any of the parties. There can be no better illustration of this than the disclaimer by government’s rep on the Steering Committee.

The Ministry of Justice is distinctly unique because it is supposed to superintend matters related to justice and is expected to treat all parties equally instead of manufacturing issues for an unwilling party. Are we safe?

Equally, important is the fact that we did not give a notice of a strike action but a notice of a peaceful protest in coalition with other individuals, associations and communities most negatively affected by the increase by market forces.

This right, we earnestly believe, is not within the powers of the Permanent Secretary or any one to abridge. It is immoral and unjust for one to beat another and restrain that person from crying.

In light of this, the notice of our protest is not intended to undermine the courts but to express our right to a peaceful protest which even the courts are obliged to uphold.

Mrs Jedy-Agba said the leadership of the Congress has a history of disdain for the courts or of making derogatory remarks about the courts. This is a spurious allegation and unbecoming of a Permanent Secretary.

This is either a case of selective amnesia or vendetta (the continuation of the war Mr Jedy-Agba as Minister of State, Power, waged against workers and national interest).

We at the Nigeria Labour Congress want to state unambiguously that our faith in the judiciary remains unshakeable.

For us, the judiciary shall continue to remain the bastion of justice and refuge from storms, hailstones and floods.

We will continue to revere our courts, honour our judicial officers as well as create value around the institution of the judiciary as part of the process of sustaining our democracy.

In doing so, we are guided by the well-known credo that the only alternative to a credible judiciary are a mob culture or tyranny which we are better off without.

Our defence, protection and projection of the judiciary is consistent with our beliefs in the culture of law and order and has come a long way.

We want to re-affirm that in spite of the fact that the NICN quite often does not rule in our favour, we have a lot of respect for the court.

Coupled with the above, we have championed campaigns including street protests for the independence of the judiciary and their proper funding.

Mrs B.E Jedy-Agba claimed that aside from the “above legal inhibition of any nature, we also note that both the federal and state governments are engaging with stakeholders to cushion the collateral effect of fuel subsidy and increment in fuel price” without mentioning those with whom the two tiers of governments are engaging with. Certainly not our members in association with us, to the best of our knowledge.

And in any case, the issue of cash palliative which Government observed in breach is only one of the seven items on the MoU we jointly signed with Government. What about the other six?

Finally, for avoidance of doubt, we want to restate here that we have utmost respect for our courts and profound admiration for our Judges.

Benson Upah
Head of Information and Public Affairs

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