…Says workers have confidence in courts

By Bimbola Oyesola

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) at the weekend took a swipe at the Kaduna State Governor, Mr. Nasir Ahmed El-Rufai, over what it considered disparaging comments the governor was reported to have made about the judiciary.

The NLC president, Ayuba Wabba, said organised labour considered the comments on the judiciary, in particular the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN), on a national TV platform, which was aired recently, as “irresponsible, unbecoming, and dangerous because they are capable of undermining our public institutions.” 

The NLC president said the comments  also represented the “height of flippant commentary.”

He said, “The allegations against the National Industrial Court are spurious, mischievous, malicious and prejudicial and reveal the extent of Mr. Nasir El-Rufai’s bigotry and ignorance in simple judicial matters as the NICN could not have stopped him from pursuing the criminal aspect or content of his complaint.

“His comments present him as a governor who neither believes in rules nor systems. Right wing extremism, which El-Rufai represents, is dangerous to our democracy because it does not believe in rules or laws other than its own rules and laws and seeks to destroy that which it cannot control.”

The NLC president noted that the public service rules are meant to be respected in all circumstances by both government and employees, adding that Labour standards and rules are also meant to be respected by all including Mr. El-Rufai. 

“Hiring and firing workers like slaves has no place in a democratic system guided by the rule of law,” he said.

Wabba stated that employment relations between employers (be it government or private) are guided by rules and standards of the International Labour Organisation, the first specialised agency of the United Nations, and all member-nations are under obligation to respect and commit to those standards.

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He explained that the National Industrial Court Nigeria was established in 1976 and was made a court of superior record by the (Third Alteration) Amendment Act 2010 in line with global standards.

He said, “We have Labour or Industrial Courts in all parts of the world — Africa, Europe, Latin America, Asia, and Australia with specific examples in Chile, Argentina, Peru, South Africa, Uganda, Kenya, Malaysia and many others. In Latin American countries, the Labour Courts derive their authority from their national Constitution and in some cases they are known as Supreme Labour Courts.

“So clearly, from this survey, the practice of having Industrial Courts is not peculiar to Nigeria.”

He expressed that in spite of the cases workers have lost at the Court, the Court continues to be a beacon of justice, refuge and hope through its numerous decisions; bold, creative, unbiased and courageous.

He warned that nothing should be done to undermine the authority of the NICN or any Court for that matter, stating that the role of the NICN in conflict resolution in the industrial relations conflict space has been unparalleled and epochal. Ditto its contribution to productivity.

“We workers have confidence in the Court and will continue to seek justice in the Court,” he said.

The labour leader said the judiciary has been the least funded of the three arms of government and judges whose salaries were last reviewed in 2009 are the least paid. 

“Save a few privileged Judges, their work environment is next to intolerable,” he said, maintaining that the least the country could do is to ensure the judiciary gets its share of fair funding, independence and good remuneration for its officers.

“We have no doubt El-Rufai can be part of this team instead of indulging in this kind of criticism,” he stated.