The National Industrial Court in Akure, the capital city of Ondo State, on Monday granted an exparte order restraining the labour unions in Kwara State from proceeding on an industrial strike over disagreements on the signing and implementation of the minimum wage.
Granted by Justice D.K. Damulak of the Akure Division of the Industrial Court, the order came as the labour unions directed its members to proceed on an indefinite strike from Tuesday unless the government accedes to its requests. The ex parte order has been served on the labour unions in Ilorin, the state capital, on Monday afternoon.
The government has repeatedly said it was willing to pay the minimum wage based on a table that its resources can accommodate without halting its delivery of infrastructure and public services to the rest of the population.
It added that the local government should also be allowed to negotiate what it can afford based on its financial capacity, warning that insisting on the state signing any agreement that binds the local governments to the state’s own table would bankrupt the third tier of government and lead to arrears of unpaid salaries. The labour however insists that the state government must sign the same minimum wage agreement for the state and local government workers.
In an affidavit filed at the industrial court in the suit No NICN/AK/53/2020, the government is asking whether it was lawful for it to sign an agreement affecting Local government workers when it is not in control of Local Govt finances nor expending its funds.
The case was instituted by the Attorney General of Kwara State as Plaintiff while the defendants include the Nigeria Labour Congress; Trade Union Congress; Joint Negotiation Committee; Aliyu Issa Ore (State NLC Chairman), Ezekiel Adegoke (State TUC Chairman); and Saliu Suleiman (JNC Chairman). The court, among other things, granted an order of interim injunction restraining the “defendants/ respondents jointly and severally by themselves, their agents, servants, employees, workmen, privies or authorities how so ever described from declaring any strike or industrial action or embarking on the planned industrial action of any nature effective on the 12th and/or 13th day of October, 2020 or at any other date pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice for interlocutory injunction.”
It also granted an order restraining the defendants from taking further steps in respect of the subject matter of the suit pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice and another order for substituted service of the originating summons and any order of the court. The government is asking the court to declare that the local government is a separate tier of government with its own financial autonomy and which wages could not be determined by the state government, irrespective of some oversight powers the state government may have on them — just as the federal government also has some oversight powers on the states. The case may go down in Nigerian history as the first of such which seeks to assert the financial autonomy and quasi-independence of the local government as a tier of government.
The court has adjourned to October 20 to hear the motion.