The National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) sitting in Lagos on Tuesday voided the Lagos State Government’s appointment of a caretaker committee for managing parks and garages.
Justice Maureen Esowe ordered the reinstatement of the operations of the Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria (RTEAN) in Lagos State.
The judge held that the state government’s suspension of the national unions’ operations and setting up of a caretaker committee was illegal and unconstitutional.
She held that the government and the Police should have intervened by arresting and prosecuting those behind any fracas purportedly involving union members and not inquiring into the dispute.
The court also restrained the state government from further interfering in the operations of the union’s exco.
It also ordered the police to refrain from intimidating the union’s officers, to remove all barricades it imposed around their secretariat and to grant them unfettered access to their offices.
Justice Esowe also dismissed the defendants’ preliminary objections to the suit, saying the matter was straightforward, with no serious dispute to warrant an exchange of pleadings.
RTEAN instituted the suit marked NICN/LA/381/2022, in October 2022 to challenge the Lagos State government for allegedly dissolving the elected executive committee of the union in the state and appointing a caretaker body, known as the Parks and Garages Administrators, headed by Mr. Musiliu Akinsanya, popularity known as MC Oluomo.
The defendants in the case are the Governor, the Attorney-General of the state, Moyosore Onigbanjo and Sola Giwa, who is the Special Adviser to the governor on transportation.
The 4th-37th defendants are the Commissioner of Police, Lagos State, and all the members of the caretaker committee.
In January, the union through its counsel, Elisha Kurah (SAN) argued that a state cannot interfere in the affairs of a trade union registered under the Trade Unions Act of 2004.
He added that the state cannot dissolve the union, saying such matters are handled by the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment.
But, counsel for the state government, Adebayo Haroun contended that the government neither violated the law nor dissolved the national body’s operations in the state, but had sought to maintain law and order by creating the ad-hoc committee when violence ensued between the unions.
The counsel for the 5th to the 37th defendants, Taiwo Kupolati (SAN), in his arguments, said Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu had the power to maintain peace in the land.
“There was a crisis and the governor exercised his authority as the Chief Security Officer of the state and put up a committee to be in charge of garages for peace to reign,” he argued.