The National Industrial Court of Nigeria in Abuja on Thursday ordered the Federal Government and Organised Labour to submit a report of their negotiations on the disputes over the new minimum wage by January 30, 2019.
Justice Sanusi Kado had on November 2, 2018 adjourned the case till Thursday after issuing an ex parte order stopping the strike which the labour had planned to commence on November 6.
The strike was however averted after an agreement was reached on November 5 between Labour and the Federal Government with N30,000 recommended to President Muhammadu Buhari as the new minimum wage.
At the resumed hearing in the case on Thursday, the three defendants – the Nigeria Labour Congress, the Trade Union Congress and the Nigeria Governors’ Forum – were absent and were also not represented by any lawyer.
But the plaintiffs – the Federal Government and the Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami – were represented by their legal team led by Mr Emmanuel Omonowa.
Following the absence of the defence team in court on Thursday, Omonowa informed the judge that based on the order made by the court on November 2, negotiations on the new minimum wage were ongoing.
He therefore pleaded with the court to give more time to the parties in the suit to enable them to continue with the negotiations and later give a report on the negotiation efforts to the court.
“Pursuant to Order 42(1) of the National Industrial Court Rules, the court should allow parties to see the possibility of amicable settlement of the matter,” Omonowa said.
Following Omonowa’s request, Justice Kado restated his November 2 order restraining the labour from embarking on the planned strike and warned all the parties to the suit against taking any step that could cause disruptions in the case.
He then adjourned till January 30, 2019 for the parties to report to the court on whether or not they had settled amicably or would still be interested in going on with the case.
Justice Kado had on November 2, in a ruling on an ex parte application moved on behalf of the Federal Government by the Solicitor-General of the Federation and Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Justice, Mr Dayo Apata, stopped Labour from embarking on their planned strike scheduled to commence on November 6.
The judge said the order of an interim injunction was made due to the urgency of the matter and the need to protect the overall interest of the public.
He fixed November 8 as the return date in the case as he warned the governors of the 36 states of the federation joined in the suit as the 3rd defendant under the aegis of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, not to do anything that would adversely affect the interest of their workforce pending the hearing and determination of the suit.
He directed that the orders stopping the planned strike and other court papers filed by the plaintiffs be immediately served on both the NLC and the TUC.
But the defendants – NLC, TUC and NGF – were not represented in court on Thursday.
This is despite the fact that a bailiff, Abolaji Matuluko, in his affidavit of service filed in court, said he had served the court order and other processes filed by the Federal Government in the case on the defendants.
Concerning the NLC, the bailiff said after the court’s ruling on November 2, he served the union by dropping the court order and other documents on the premises of the union’s office when those he met at the office refused to accepted them from him.
The bailiff stated in the affidavit that on getting to the headquarters of the NLC at Labour House, Central Business District Abuja, at about 4.15pm, he met union members and informed them of his mission to serve the documents on the NLC president.
He added, “That I was informed by the union members on the premises of the Nigeria Labour Congress that the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress informed them not to receive any court process on his behalf.
“That the union members at the premises of the Nigeria Labour Congress refused to collect the above court processes and also refused to allow me from effecting the service on the President, Nigeria Labour Congress.
“That I dropped the above stated court processes at the office of the Nigeria Labour Congress and also took a picture as evidence.
“That service is said to have been properly effected in accordance with the NICN Rules, 2007.”