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NLC Strike: Court Declares Kaduna Commission Of Inquiry Unconstitutional

The National Industrial Court has declared that the Judicial Commission of Inquiry set up by Governor Nasir El-Rufai over the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) strike was unconstitutional, null, void and of no effect.

Justice Osatohanmwen Obaseki-Osaghae, delivering judgment on Thursday, also ruled that the governor lacked the power to set up the commission of Inquiry to investigate the strike of May 16 to May 19, 2021, and the activities that emanated from it.

The court stated that the governor could set up a Commission of Inquiry, but not the type that bordered on labour disputes.

In addition, the court stated that the terms of reference listed to be carried out by the commission were ultra vide to the right of the claimants.

The judge held that the governor who constituted the commission appointed its members, and also directed that its findings and recommendations be sent to him.

She held, therefore, that the governor made himself a judge in his matter as he was a party in the dispute that led to the strike.

The judge ruled that going by sections 6 and 254 of the Nigerian constitution and sections 20,36 and 40 of the Trade Union Act, only the National Industrial Court had the jurisdiction to entertain matters related to labour and trade disputes.

Mrs Obaseki-Osaghae also barred the governor from setting up another commission.

In addition, she prohibited the commission from carrying out its mandate of investigating the said strike.

The judge in conclusion awarded the sum of N500,000 to the claimants.

The News Agency of Nigeria ( NAN) reports that joined in the suit as co-defendants are the Attorney General of the State and the Kaduna State Judicial Commission of Inquiry

Other defendants in the suit are members of the commission including Ishaq Bello, Rabiu Dabo, Eyo Ekpo and Joan Jatau-Kadiya.

Other defendants are Nasirudeen Usman, Mohammed Aliyu, Daniel Enwelum, and Musa Kakako, as chairman, secretary and members of the commission respectively.

The claimants – the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Ayuba Wabba, Joe Ajaero and Ayuba Suleiman – from their statement of facts had submitted that the cause of action emanated from a labour dispute of anti-worker policies which led to the actions and events that birthed the warning strike of May 16 to May 19, 2021.

The claimants also stated that earlier, the governor of Kaduna had on January 4, 2021, issued a directive to restructure and reform the civil service of Kaduna, with the aim of reducing its workforce.

They further submitted through their counsel, Femi Falana, that they embarked on the strike to protest the termination of employment and the involuntary retirement of some of their members.

The union leaders in addition averred that the federal government through the Minister of Labour and Productivity stepped in and called for reconciliation.

They said that in resolving the issue, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed by parties to the effect that the strike would be called off and no persons that took part in it would be victimised.

They disclosed that a committee was also set up and was meant to revert to the minister before the governor set up another commission to investigate the activities of the same strike.

They, therefore, urged the court to interpret whether the first defendant can set up a commission of inquiry to look into a trade dispute.

They also sought some declarations and orders from the court.

The defendants, through their counsel Kanu Agabi, in their counter-affidavit, submitted that the strike resulted to breach of peace which led to the loss of lives and property.

The defence in addition argued that as a result, the commission of inquiry was set up and directed to ascertain whether the strike complied with the Trade Union Act and followed all the rules before and during the strike.

The defendants further averred that the commission was set up with terms of reference to investigate the activities during the strike in order to proffer ways to prevent future occurrences.

The defendants in their counter-affidavit also raised the issue as it related to the jurisdiction of this court. (NAN)

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