Nigeria: Contempt Proceedings Filed Against NLC is inchoate – Federal Ministry of Justice

The Federal Ministry of Justice has assured that it did not proceed further with the contempt proceedings it initiated against the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC.

This is contained in a letter signed by the Solicitor-General of the Federation and Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Justice, Mrs. Beatrice Jedy-Agba, OON, mni, and addressed to the General Secretary Nigeria Labour Congress.

Mrs Jedy-Agba said the Ministry did not continue with the legal proceedings because of the intervention of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the decision of the labour unions to call-off their industrial action after meetings with the President and leadership of the National Assembly”.

“The attention of the Federal Ministry of Justice has been drawn to the Communique issued by the Nigeria Labour Congress (“NLC”) on 3rd August 2023 wherein NLC announced the suspension of its nationwide protests and criticized the contempt summons issued by the National Industrial Court (“Court”), amongst other issues.”

She recalled the exchange of correspondence between the Ministry and the NLC on the need for compliance with the extant court orders, restraining industrial action of any kind on the part of the Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress, noting that the position of the Ministry was informed by the need to safeguard the integrity of the court and prevent avoidable service disruption or damages to public facilities.

The Solicitor-General of the federation said the Ministry was prompted to initiate the contempt proceedings by filing Form 48 on the same 2nd August 2023 in accordance with Section 72 of the Sheriffs and Civil Process Act and Order 9 Rule 13 of the Judgment (Enforcement) Rules, because the labour unions, despite the earlier exchange of correspondence, still proceeded with the industrial action through public protests which led to disruption of work and the eventual pulling down of the gate of the National Assembly.

Mrs Jedy-Agba pointed out that the issuance of Form 48 is just a starting point in contempt proceedings which only crystalizes upon the issuance of Form 49 within two days of the issuance of Form 48, and the consequential committal order.

She emphasized that the non -issuance of Form 49 as at 4th August 2023, had already rendered the contempt proceedings inchoate.

She enjoined the NLC to advise or guide the labour unions on the practice and procedure of contempt proceedings, especially as the issues or concerns raised by the NLC in its communique on the proceedings, had been “overtaken by events.”

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