‘We will enforce the law’ Police warn labour unions ahead of planned protest and strike action

Labour leaders have vowed to begin the strike action on Monday if the federal government fails to revert the recent price hikes.

Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu [Facebook/Nigeria Police Force]

The unions planned to begin their strike action on Monday, September 28, 2020, if the federal government fails to revert the hikes in the price of petroleum and electricity.

The leaders of the unions had insisted on embarking on the industrial action on Monday despite two court orders restraining them and their affiliates from proceeding with the strike.

The NLC president, Ayuba Wabba said the labour union would go ahead with the planned protest and strike because they had yet to be served the court orders.

It would be recalled that Justice Ibrahim Galadima of the National Industrial Court had issued an ex-parte order restraining the NLC and TUC from stopping work in whatsoever form in favour of a group, Peace and Unity Ambassadors Association.

Following an ex parte application by Abubakar Malami, the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation, the same Judge issued another order stopping the labour unions from embarking on the planned strike barely 24 hours after the first ruling.

It is against this background that the police promised the law on the matter.

While responding to a question concerning the planned strike, the Force Public Relations Officer, DCP Frank Mba said, “What does the law say in this circumstance? We would enforce the law. That is the only thing I can say.”

However, lawyers have argued that the police lack the power to stop the labour unions from staging protest to press home their demands.

According to ThePunch, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr Chino Obiagwu said, police could not confer on themselves the duty to enforce the court order stopping the labour unions from going ahead with the strike.

Obaigwu said, “The court order, according to media report, is about NLC going on strike, it has nothing to do with protest. The court did not say citizens should not go out to protest, it said the labour should not go on strike. So, it is a trade dispute. It is not a criminal matter. The police have no business in trade disputes. It is for the Nigerian government to go to court to obtain an order against whoever they believe has disobeyed the court order.”

He further said that the only way to enforce court judgment “is to approach the court for the issuance of Form 48 and Form 49 and proceed judicially”

Inibehe Effiong, another lawyer and activist, also argued that the police do not have the power to stop the labour from protesting, adding that no court could have issued any order to stop any Nigerian from protesting.

He said, “I do not think any court in Nigeria can give an injunction against people from protesting. That will be an affront to the constitution. If by Monday the police or the State Security Services say they are acting in furtherance to the order of the court to stop members of the labour movement from coming out to get their members to protest the hike in pump price and electricity tariff, it will be a flagrant attack on the constitution.

“There is no institution in Nigeria that can stop Nigerians from exercising their rights that have been granted them by the constitution.”

The lawyer concluded that the labour unions were justified to proceed with the strike action if they had not been served with any court injunction restraining them from the industrial action.

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