Sun. Sep 25th, 2022

Court Throws Out NURTW’s Suit Against Governor, Others

Court Throws Out NURTW’s Suit Against Governor, Others

Justice K. D. Damulak of the Akure, Ondo State division of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) has dismissed a suit filed by the members of National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) against the Ondo State Governor and others over alleged interference and undue intrusion.

The union alongside Mr. Oluwatoyin Olaoye in a suit marked NICN/AK/14/2022, through their lawyers, Akinyemi Omoware and Olajumoke Ogunleye, had asked the court for the following: “a declaration that by virtue of the provision of paragraph 7 of the 1st schedule, paragraph 15 of the 1st schedule, paragraph 16 of the 3rd schedule (Part A), paragraph 16 of the 3rd schedule (Part B) of the Trade Unions Act, Cap T14, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004; Article 3 of the National Union of Road Transport Workers Constitution, (Amended 2018), the NURTW is a Union duly recognized by law and whose activities is regulated by its Constitution.

“A declaration that by virtue of paragraph 7 of the 1st schedule, paragraph 15 of the 1st schedule, paragraph 16 of the 3rd schedule (Part A), paragraph 16 of the 3rd schedule (Part B) of the Trade Unions Act, Cap T14, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 and the provisions of Articles 3, 42(3)(iii); (4)(iii)(vii) & 46(12) of the National Union of Road Transport Workers Constitution, (Amended 2018), the Applicants are private workers engaged in transportation of passenger whose membership and election is governed by their Constitution and devoid of undue interference of the 1st Respondent.

“A declaration that by virtue of paragraph 7 of the 1st schedule, paragraph 15 of the 1st schedule, paragraph 16 of the 3rd schedule (Part A), paragraph 16 of the 3rd schedule (Part B) of the Trade Unions Act, Cap T14, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 and the provisions of Articles 3, 42(3)(iii); (4)(iii)(vii) & 46(12) of the National Union of Road Transport Workers Constitution, (Amended 2018), the 1st Applicant and its members are entitled to peacefully conduct of election to fill the vacant Ondo State Executive Council.

“A declaration that by virtue of the pendency of Suit No: NICN/AK/03/22: National Union Of Road Transport Workers (Ondo Staye) & 2 ORS V. Prof. Tajudeen Ibikunle Baruwa, the decision of the 1st Respondent in appointing the 2nd Respondent (who are parties in the said suit) and other members into a committee called Park Management Committee is subjudice, contemptuous and an affront to judicial process.

“A declaration that by virtue of the pendency of Suit No: NICN/AK/03/22: NATIONAL UNION OF ROAD TRANSPORT WORKERS (ONDO STATE) & 2 ORS V. PROF. TAJUDEEN IBIKUNLE BARUWA and the provisions of Article 42(4)(iii)(vii) & 46(12) of the National Union of Road Transport Workers Constitution, (Amended 2018), the appointment of the 2nd Respondent and other members of the Park Management Committee is an intrusion into and a violation of the Constitution of the 1st Applicant.

“A declaration that the decision of the 1st Respondent in appointing the 2nd Respondent and other members into a committee called Park Management Committee is an interference and undue intrusion into the affairs of the 1st Applicant.

“A declaration that the decision of the 1st Respondent in appointing the 2nd Respondent and other members into a committee called Park Management Committee will interfere with peacefully conduct of election and the affairs of the 1st Applicant members in Ondo State.

“A declaration that by virtue of the provisions of the Trade Unions Act, Cap T14, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, ‘Motor Park Management Committee or ‘Park Management Committee’ is not a recognized Trade Union that can lawfully function in the area of jurisdiction of the Applicants.

“An orders of the Court nullify the appointment of the second Respondent and other members of the Park Management Committee.”

In the alternative, the union asked for “an order restricting the activities of the second respondent and his Park Management Committee to the management of government owned parks.

“An order restraining the governor from further interference with the conduct and affairs of the Applicants and members in their various private own parks in Ondo State.

“An order restraining the second respondent and members of the Park Management Committee from interfering with the peacefully conduct of the affairs of the NURTW and its members in Ondo State.

The governor and Mr. Jacob Adebo, popularly called Idajo, a representative of members of the Motor Park Management Committee, who are respondents in the suit through their lawyers,  F. S. Akinibosun and C. Gilbert-Ojo, both asked the court to dismiss the Union’s suit.

The governor in its 21 paragraphs counter-claimants to the suit stated that the gravamen of its action was that there was power tussle between the second respondent and one Mr. Gbenga who was desperate to take over the position of the second respondent as Chairman of the NURTW, which has brought about prolonged dispute within the NURTW that is now threatening the peace of the State. 

Owing to the above, the governor stated that it suspended the activities of the NURTW to prevent breakdown of law and order and put in place the Park Management Committee under the leadership of the second respondent to oversee the parks pending when the NURTW resolve their lingering crisis that is threatening the peace of the entire State.

The governor averred that the Park Management Committee since its inauguration has restored peace into all the parks deened of rancor and acrimony that pervaded all the parks across the 18 Local Government Areas of the State before its setting up.

Also, the second respondent in his counter-affidavit stated that the Park Management Committee which he is a member was created by Executive Order of the Governor, to manage and ensure peace in the motor parks in Ondo State which already are owned by the Local governments in the State. Adding that the park management Committee was not set by the Governor to unionize the professional drivers in Ondo State but to manage the motor parks in Ondo State.

Delivering judgment in the suit, Justice Damulak after perusing all the processes before the court and legally weighed submissions of Counsel with plethoras of authorites held that: “Looking at the above relief, particularly the alternative relief, it does not seek declaration of title to any particular park said to belong to the applicants. There is just a mere deposition that some particular parks are privately owned by the applicants but there was not even an allegation that the management committee entered any of those named motor parks allegedly privately owned by the first claimant.

“The present case being an allegation of undue interference in Trade Union activities, it is a civil matter relating to, connected with and incidental to, the activities of a Trade Union. I hold that the National Industrial Court has exclusive jurisdiction over the case. 

“I have considered all the depositions of all parties as well as the documents attached as exhibits and I am satisfied that there was crises in the NURTW that warranted the intervention of the Governor. There is no material deposition in the affidavit as to why the NURTW is unable to conduct its elections except for the fact of internal crisis. The action of the governor is the right thing in the right direction as motor parks are public places relating to movement of goods and persons and a disruption of peace in those places will be a disruption of the State economy and possible loss of lives of citizens which the governor has a constitutional duty to protect. The intervention of the governor is not without reasonable cause.

“The paragraph which alleges that the management committee bombarded privately owned motor parks did not even mention any of those privately owned motor parks mentioned in paragraph. Here again it is a failed allegation as it fails the test of standard of proof.

“The suspension of the activities of the NURTW in Public Motor Parks, rightly in my view, is not being challenged. It has not been shown how the appointment of the motor park management committee by the governor, interferes with the functions of the NURTW or how the suspension of the activities of the NURTW in public motor parks will stop the NURTW from conducting its elections or engaging in commercial transportation business. It is the Union activities that are suspended in public motor parks in the state, not the business of the members of the Union, neither are the activities of the Union suspended in private motor parks in the state.

“On the whole, the case of the claimants is devoid of merit and same is hereby dismissed. This is the judgment of the court and it is entered accordingly.”

Source- nicnadr.ng.gov