Return to work or forfeit pay, FG tells workers
The Federal Government has threatened to enforce the no work, no pay law if workers refuse to return to work owing to the ongoing mass action against the removal of subsidy on petrol.
A statement by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister for Justice, Mohammed Adokie, (SAN),on Tuesday contained this message.
Adoke said that government’s decision was based on the fact that the National Industrial Court had restrained labour from embarking on the strike.
He also promised that his office will work with the National Human Rights Commission to avoid the use of excessive force by security agencies, which has led to loss of lives in the mass action that enters its third day today.
The statement by Adoke reads: “The attention of the Attorney General of the Federation has been drawn to reports of the unfortunate loss of lives of Nigerians in the course of the demonstrations staged yesterday in some parts of the country. Government regrets this development and commiserates with the affected families. The HAGF wishes to assure all Nigerians that in order to avoid a re-occurrence of this sad event, the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation and the National Human Rights Commission will work with the Nigeria Police Force and other security agencies on the imperatives of avoiding excessive use of force and the protection of the rights of law abiding citizens.
“It will be recalled that the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) on the 4th January 2012 issued a Joint Statement calling for a general strike of Nigerian workers with effect from Monday, 9th January 2012 in solidarity with the mass protest planned by some civil society organisations over the Federal Government policy of deregulation in the downstream sector of the petroleum industry.
“Convinced of the unlawfulness of the planned action of the NLC/TUC especially in the absence of any trade dispute with its employees, Government approached the National Industrial Court which is constitutionally vested under section 254 C (1) (c) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended with exclusive jurisdiction to consider matters relating to the propriety or otherwise of a proposed strike or industrial action.
“The Court in furtherance of government’s application, granted an interim injunction restraining the NLC and the TUC from embarking or compelling other persons to embark on a strike action or general strike, mass rallies or street protest pending the determination of the Motion on Notice which will come up for hearing on Thursday 12th January 2012. For the avoidance of doubt, it is necessary to state that the basis of the injunction and the Motion on Notice is that no trade dispute has been declared in consonance with existing laws by the NLC and TUC and a clear distinction between civil protest on one hand and an industrial action or strike on the other.
“The office of the Attorney General of the Federation is therefore dismayed that the NLC and TUC have refused to join issues with the Government in the judicial process and other peaceful initiatives. Rather than obey subsisting court orders, the NLC/TUC have embarked on an indefinite general strike and have pursuant to their threat, forcefully “ shut down” all offices, oil production centres, air and sea ports, fuel stations, markets and banks.
“Government wishes to reiterate that the Order of the National Industrial Court (NIC) is a subsisting order and the continuing disregard of that Order is inimical to the public interest as it constitutes an open invitation to anarchy. Respect for the judiciary, particularly, the Orders and Judgments emanating from the Courts is critical to the survival and sustenance of our fledgling democracy. Government reiterates its commitment to the promotion and protection of the fundamental rights of the people, including the right to free speech, expression and peaceful assembly.
“It is pertinent to remind all Nigerians that the enjoyment of these rights and freedoms must be consistent with the letters and spirit of the Constitution. The current strike by organised labour which has prevented the legitimate pursuit of economic activities across the country in defiance of a valid subsisting order of a superior court of record transgresses the parameters set by the Constitution and extant laws.
“In light of the foregoing, members of the public who are under contractual obligations as employees in the public and private sectors are advised to respect the terms of their contract of service and report to their duty posts. Necessary measures have been put in place to ensure that this is done without any form of molestation or harassment by anyone or group of persons. In the event that public servants continue to disregard the terms of their employment in the absence of any trade dispute and especially in the face of blatant disregard of a subsisting Court Order, the Government will not hesitate to enforce the “no work no pay” policy.
“Finally, Government calls on the NLC/ TUC to respect the Orders of the National Industrial Court and engage government in a constructive dialogue with a view to addressing hardships arising from the deregulation in the downstream sector of the petroleum industry.”