EVERY major strike in recent years has had a court order issued against it. The National Industrial Court regularly grants injunctions to stop strikes, but it has no impact when it is resolutely ignored by trade union leaders. The first defence is often for the relevant union to avoid being served the order. Over the last five years no trade union leader has been punished for ignoring court orders.
In early May 2023, the Court issued an injunction against the NLC in Imo State, but this did not stop the strike. Similarly, with the ASUU strike issued with an injunction in September last year (2022), this did not stop the strike, but may have contributed to its ending a month later after eight months.
The National Industrial Court, Abuja, in mid-September 2021, ordered members of the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) to suspend their 46-day-old strike and return to work immediately. The strike was not suspended until 6th October, 2021.
Kwara State NLC struck over the minimum wage in February 2021 – Kwara workers began strike in spite of court injunction.
The Edo State chapter of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) on 2nd February 2021 said in spite of the order issued by the National Industrial Court the day before, its members will not go back to work. The strike had started on 18th January and did not end until 8th February, 2021.
The NLC planned general strike in September 2020 had a court order issued against it on 24th, but the strike was not suspended until the 28th on the eve of the strike. This was over a fuel increase from N148/litre to N162/litre – a less than 10% increase compared to over 300% recently.
In 2018, JOHESU was issued with a court injunction to stop its strike within 24 hours on 17th May. The strike was not suspended until the end of the month after six weeks.
In May 2016, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) called off the nearly week-long strike over an increase in fuel prices of 68%. A court injunction had been issued before the strike started. This strike was not supported by the then Joe Ajaero faction of the NLC.
A Lagos-based lawyer, Mr Bayo Akinlade, the Convener of Duty Solicitors Network (DSN), stated that the NLC has the right to embark on its current promised strike if their demands are not met by the government.
“I think they agreed to suspend their strike to allow the government to meet their demands… If the demands are not met by 2nd August, then they have every right to go on strike,” he said.
We should remember that the National Industrial Court of Nigeria is really part of the government and its leading judges are appointed by the President. Hence this court is not neutral, but its role is to subdue any trade union taking effective action. As a result, any trade union served with an injunction from this court should see it as a badge of honour. The injunction should be taken as recognition that the government recognises the seriousness of the strike. So, the trade unions should continue to organise the strike with renewed vigour and refuse to recognise the court injunction.
Comrade Batubo, a member of Socialist Labour, writes from Abuja.