Despite the appeal to the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) to shelve its planned nationwide protests, slated for Wednesday, August 2, the NLC has intensified the mobilisation of workers and civil societies in the country.
It would be recalled that NLC issued a seven-day ultimatum to the Federal Government to reverse all “anti-poor” and “insensitive” policies, such as the removal of fuel subsidies and its consequences, increase in public school fees, N8,000 palliatives among others.
“There is nowhere in the world where the government leaves its citizens totally to the vagaries of the market without some measure of control and protection. The Federal Government should immediately deal decisively with the criminal content of subsidy instead of exposing ordinary citizens to avoidable pain and hardship.,” the NLC said.
Human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, has maintained that protest by the NLC and its affiliates is not in contempt of court.
This is contained in a letter dated July 28 from the Falana Falana Chambers, solicitors to the NLC, by Sam Ogala, titled “Re- NLC in contemt of Court ” and addressed to the Permanent Secretary/ Solicitor-General, Federal Ministry of Justice.
According to Falana, the right to demonstrate and protest on matters of public concern were in public interest, which individuals must possess and should exercise without impediment as long as no wrongful act was done.
“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 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 June 5, 2023.’
“You will agree with 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 to have threatened our client with contempt of court.
“It is pertinent to draw your attention to the case of Inspector-General of Police v 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 the 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.
“Having advised the Nigeria Labour Congress and its allies to conduct the rallies peacefully, you may wish to advise the Nigeria Police Force to comply with section 83(4) of the Police Establishment Act 2020, which states that ‘where a person or organization notifies the police of his or its intention to hold a public meeting, rally or procession on a public highway or such meetings in a place where the public has access to, the police officer responsible for the area where the meeting rally or procession will take place shall mobilize personnel to provide security cover for the meeting, rally or procession.”
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