Lawyers in Ekiti State have spoken on the constitutionality of Governor Ayo Fayose’s decision to proceed on an indefinite “strike” in solidarity with civil servants, who are owed five months arrears of salaries.
Speaking with The Nation in Ado Ekiti yesterday, they said the 1999 Constitution (as amended) does not provide for a state chief executive to proceed on an industrial action.
The governor had in a broadcast on the state television last Friday said he was joining the workers in their indefinite strike as a mark of solidarity with them.
But the organised labour fired back, saying: “What we need is the payment of at least three out of five month arrears and not a solidarity strike”.
The Chairman of Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Ado Ekiti Branch, Dr. Foluke Dada, who explained that the constitution does not empower a state governor to go on strike, said Fayose might have taken the action to empathise with workers as he could not help the situation.
The NBA chief, who is also a lecturer in the Faculty of Law, Ekiti State University (EKSU), said Fayose’s strike is a symbolic one and should not be taken literally.
Mrs. Dada said: “Personally, I am of the view that if he says he is going on strike, I don’t see him doing it actively. It is the clear way to show solidarity and empathise with workers.
“The strike is a symbolic way of telling the workers that he feels very sorry for the suffering they are going through and that he identifies with them. I think the governor is just being symbolic and we should not take it literally.”
Another Ado Ekiti-based lawyer, Kolade Ilesanmi, argued that Fayose cannot go on strike by virtue of the oath of office and oath of allegiance he swore to under the Seventh Schedule of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
Ilesanmi said: “Legally and constitutionally speaking, Fayose cannot go on strike. Can a governor declare a trade dispute against himself? The answer is no and you cannot go on strike without declaring a trade dispute.
“If he is on strike, why is he performing official duties? If the governor goes on strike and communicates same to the House of Assembly, it will amount to abdication of duty and he is presumed to have voluntarily resigned from office.
“If after transmitting the letter and still performs the functions, the House of Assembly can go ahead to impeach him. This will be a ground for his impeachment as an infringement against the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution.
“He swore to an oath to discharge his duties according to the constitution and if he says he is now on strike, he has abdicated his position. The governor, being a jester, is just mocking the workers by his action.”
To Oluwasola Kayode, a governor going on strike is unheard of and there is no law in the statute books that permits a state chief executive to down tools.
He added that the law only permits him to go on leave or vacation.
Kayode said: “The governor is not under any law regulating employment; he is neither an employer or an employee.
“A sitting president or governor can go on leave or vacation. But as to going on strike, it will be tantamount to vacating the seat although there has never been any judicial pronouncement as to whether an incumbent governor can go on strike.
“Although it is a matter, which a court can adjudicate upon on what should be the legal consequences of a governor deliberately going on strike because the position of a governor is not under contemplation of the Trade Union Act.”
Chris Omokhafe said: “The governor is just being jovial with workers. Going on strike is not a constitutional matter, but he has the right to go on leave.”
Emmanuel Adedeji said: “You don’t make an issue out of it; it’s a joking matter. The governor wouldn’t have said that he was going on solidarity strike. I believe he was misquoted and the statement was given a political colouration.”