THE Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, has threatened that the federal government may be forced to invoke the no-work-no-pay clause as contained in some “sections of the Trade Disputes Acts” if the industrial actions embarked upon over two months ago by the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN and Parliamentary Staff Association of Nigeria (PASAN) over the financial autonomy of state judiciary and legislature persist.
Dr Ngige issued the threat in a statement on Tuesday, after a meeting with the unions ended in a deadlock. “The ministry will not be happy to be pushed into invoking sections of the Trade Disputes Acts capable of eroding all the gains made so far in the negotiations since May 6, 2021,” the statement signed by Mr Charles Akpan, Deputy Director, Press and Public Relations in the Ministry of Labour and Employment on Tuesday.
While JUSUN’s strike has shut down the courts across the country since April 6, 2021, when it commenced, PASAN’s strike which began on March 23, 2021 has equally rendered the state houses of assembly inoperative.
In the statement, Ngige, who led federal government’s team, told the leadership of the two unions to immediately return to work in honour of the May 20, 2021 Memorandum of Action (MoA), signed by all parties.
The minister decried the situation where the courts and the state houses of assembly remain shut across the country “for no cogent reasons of non-adherence to the provisions of the May 20 Memorandum of Action which has 45 days implementation window.”
“The Federal Government has sadly noted that the MOA between all the stakeholders involved in the JUSUN/PASAN strike, mainly JUSUN/PASAN, governors’ forum and the Presidential Implementation Committee is yet to take effect because of non-compliance by parties.
“We note that the strike has not been called off as of noon, today, June 8, 2021, leading to courts and various State Houses of Assembly still remaining under lock and key contrary to the promise made by the two unions at a further dialogue which was attended by the President of the Nigerian Labour Congress.
“Unfortunately, all federal courts have remained closed notwithstanding the fact that the Federal level of Government operates a financial autonomy of the judiciary through the National Judicial Council (NJC) and the National Assembly through the statutory transfer lines,” the statement quoted Ngige as saying.
According to the statement, Dr Ngige noted that state governors “are desirous that the State Assemblies be opened so that they can enact the laws meant to give effect to the autonomy as enshrined in the MOA.”
“But we have advised all state governors that have consulted with their heads of judiciary and legislature to go ahead and credit the accounts of the judiciary and legislature before fine-tuning the laws.
“We are worried and therefore wish to appeal for the last time to all parties involved in the signed agreement to abide by its spirit and letters, by firstly re-opening all the courts and the State Houses of Assembly so that all other ingredients in the MOA can be given full compliance by all parties concerned.
“This much was agreed to between JUSUN/PASSAN and the Governors Forum at the last meeting on Friday, June 4, 2021,” Ngige was quoted in the statement to have said, where he also noted that with the courts closed, the police and other security agencies “cannot prosecute criminals, hoodlums and bandits even as the nation is faced with heightened insecurity.”