Justice Rabi Gwandu of the National Industrial Court, NIC, sitting in Lagos, on Thursday expressed dissatisfaction at the disobedience of its order, which restrained Trade Union Congress, TUC, from holding its 12th triennial delegates’ conference pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit before the court.
The judge frowned at the lawyers and parties that were involved, while warning that disobedience of court erodes confidence in the system and failure to check it will breed anarchy.
The court had at the last sitting restrained TUC from holding its 12th triennial delegates’ conference or taking any further steps to hold it, but the Union went ahead with the conference on 19th and 20th July, 2022.
Justice Gwandu, made the order in a suit filed by the Association of Senior Staff of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions, ASSBIFI, and nine other associations against the TUC.
TUC however claimed that the decision to hold the conference was hinged on another Order of court issued by Justice O.A Obaseki Osaghae of NIC Abuja.
At the resume of the matter on Thursday, Claimants’ counsel, Timothy Adewale informed the court of the disobedience of the order made by the court and that he has filed an application for contempt against the defendants.
According to him, the Order of the court stopping the defendants from holding the conference or doing anything whatsoever on the subject matter of this case until the determination of the substantive suit was clear and unambiguous.
He said he was shocked that despite the court order, the defendants went ahead to hold the conference in violation of the court order.
He urged the court to hear the contempt application adding that unless the defendants obeyed the court order, they will be guilty of contempt of court.
However, counsel to TUC, Ambassador Sola Iji told the court that the first defendant’s, (Trade Union Congress) decision to proceed with the 12th Triennial National Delegates Conference was based on an order by the National Industrial Court Abuja.
He stated that the court directed that the conference should hold in line with the provision of the existing constitution.
Justice Gwandu however stated that she will get to the roots of the matter and adjourned the suit till August 24 to rule on applications of those that have applied to be joined as parties in the suit.
The claimants, in their originating summons, had prayed the court to declare that by virtue of the agreements and resolutions reached and ratified at the 11th triennial delegates’ conference of the defendant held on June 28, 2019, at NAF Centre, Abuja, the 1st claimant, ASSBIFI, should produce the next president of the TUC for the year 2022 to 2025.
The claimants also asked for an order, mandating and compelling the defendant to immediately enable the 1st claimant to produce and assume the office of the president of the defendant, in line with the agreement and resolutions reached and ratified at the 11th triennial delegates’ conference in Abuja.
The application is supported by a 27-paragraph affidavit deposed to by the general secretary of the Pulp Paper and Paper Products Printing and Publishing Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, PPAPPPAPSSAN, Benedict Ikegbulam.
He swore that sometimes in 2019, due to the leadership imbroglio and the intricate nature of the situation around the presidency of the TUC, members of the defendant, during its triennial delegates’ conference, constituted an electoral committee chaired by Comrade Augustine Etafo of Construction and Engineering Senior Staff Association of Nigeria and also a deputy president of the Congress to work out modalities for elections into TUC, as a way of resolving the imbroglio and saving the defendant from collapse.
He averred: “That the electoral committee, after the national officers’ position were harmonised with the approval of the National Executive Council of the defendant recommended to the defendant the following order of presidency of the defendant to prevent rancour or internal crisis.
“That Food, Beverages and Tobacco Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, FOBTOB, take the position of TUC president in 2019 to 2022. That ASSBIFI take the position of TUC president in 2022 to 2025, and after the tenure of ASSBIFI, the position of the president shall be open to all members to contest, and that these recommendations were approved and ratified.
“The claimants were, however, surprised that the defendant, in preparations for the 12th triennial delegates’ conference, published a special notice, dated February 8, 2022, for positions to be contested (2022 to 2025) at the conference to include the office of the president of the TUC without any regard to the aforementioned motions adopted, ratified and already being implemented.”