Minister Lacks Power To Appoint A Caretaker Committee For Trade Union- Industrial Court rules

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The Hon. President of the National Industrial Court, Hon. Justice Benedict kanyip, PhD, OFR has declared that the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment and its Honourable Minister or any of their designated officers lack the powers to interfere in the internal management affairs of the Tricycle Owners Association of Nigeria.

 

 

The Court granted an order setting aside and declaring null and void the letter dated 1 July 2022 authored by the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, purporting to constitute a caretaker committee to manage the affairs of the Union during the pendency of their respective elected tenures of office.


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Justice Kanyip ruled that there is nothing in the Trade Dispute Act that authorises the Honourable Minister to dissolve the executive council of a trade union and set up a caretaker committee in its place, that what the Ministry did in dissolving the executive council and replacing it with a caretaker committee is nothing but classic interference in the affairs of a trade union by the defendants, which the law frowns on.

From facts, the claimant- Tricycle Owners Association of Nigeria had submitted that its duly elected National officers took an oath of office on 21 September 2021 for a four-year tenure and the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment and its Honourable Minister are trying to remove the elected executives of the Union unlawfully by purporting to appoint a caretaker committee for the association without recourse to due process.

The Union asked for a determination whether or not by a dispassionate interpretation of Rule 15 of the registered constitution of the Tricycle Owners Association of Nigeria, 2015, the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment and its Honourable Minister or any of their designated officers can abridge the tenure of duly elected officers of the Central Working Committee (CWC) of the Claimant Association and purport to appoint any caretaker committee of any other management body howsoever designated among others.

The Union averred that the letter emanating from the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment and its Honourable Minister purporting to suspend the union’s Exco and appointing a caretaker committee is a classic example of executive highhandedness and offends all known tenets of fair hearing.

In defence, the defendants- Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment and its Honourable Minister maintained that the Trade Dispute Act gives the Minister powers to apprehend a trade dispute, and they have the mandate to call any registered trade union to order if the need arises. That the union has been engulfed in an intra-union crisis for a long period and they have been receiving series of petitions against the leadership of the Union.

They averred that allowing the suit will do violence to the basic and settled principle of separation of powers, and urged the Court to dismiss the case with substantial costs as it is an invitation to the Court to prevent the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment and its Honourable Minister from carrying out their lawful exercise of statutory duties.

In opposition, the counsel to the union, Alozie Nmerengwa, with J. I. Ozuruonye and S. R. Ehinola submitted that the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment and its Honourable Minister acted way beyond their powers and the Court is authorized under the Constitution to interfere and adjudicate on the respective rights and obligations of the parties, urged the Court to so hold and enter judgment in the union favour.

In a well-considered judgment, the presiding Judge, Hon. Justice Benedict Kanyip held that the constitution of the Union does not authorise the Federal Ministry of Labour to organise a National Delegates’ Conference for the union.

Justice Kanyip ruled that what the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment and its Honourable Minister did in dissolving the executive council and replacing it with a caretaker committee is nothing but classic interference in the affairs of a trade union by the defendants, which the law frowns on.

Justice Kanyip held that the ILO jurisprudence regarding Convention No. 87 dictates that Government stays clear of the running and administration of trade unions, and ruled that the defendants’ having dissolved the executive committee of, and set up a caretaker committee for the union is a clear violation of Convention No. 87, which Nigeria ratified and the Court is enjoined to apply.



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