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LAGOS: Court nullifies MCOluomo’s caretaker committee, reinstates RTEAN

THE appointment of an ad-hoc committee put in place by Sanwo-Olu to run the affairs of the Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria (RTEAN) in the State as well as for the re-instating of the elected leadership of the Union has been nullified by the National Industrial Court sitting in Lagos.

Justice Maureen Esowe in his ruling stated that the act of Lagos State government in suspending the national unions operations in the state and setting up a caretaker committee is illegal and unconstitutional.

The court also restrained the state government from further interfering with the operations of the union’s exco.

Present at the court premises were members of the RTEAN who besieged the court in their numbers to witness the proceedings as well as police officials, who were on ground to keep the peace.

Recall that in Sept. 2022, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu ordered the immediate suspension of all activities of the Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria (RTEAN) in the state.

The government had said that the suspension was necessary following some pockets of violence recorded in Ojo and Lagos Island areas of the state.

However in October 2022, the state government, went ahead to set up a 35-man ad-hoc committee who took over the activities of the Union.

The Committee known as “Lagos State Park Administrators Ad-Hoc Committee on the Operations of Commercial Road Transport Workers Activities Within Garages and Motor Parks ” was headed by Hon. Sulaiman Adeshina Raji with Bamgbose Oluseyi as Deputy Chairman.

The RTEAN subsequently instituted a suit in Oct. 2022 to challenge the lagos state government for dissolving the elected executive committee of the union in the state and appointing the ad-hoc committee.

The first to third defendants in the case were the Governor, the Attorney-General of the state, and the Special Adviser to the state governor on transportation, Sola Giwa.

Th 4th defendant was the Commissioner of police, Lagos State, and all the members of the ad-hoc committee were listed as the 5th to the 37th defendants.

Following this, the union in January 2023, through their counsel, Elisha Kurah SAN, had argued that a state cannot interfere in the affairs of a trade union registered under the Trade Unions Act of 2004.

He argued that the state cannot dissolve the union as such matters were handled by Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment.

“The government dissolved RTEAN, suspended its operations and took over the garages.

“The union is challenging Lagos State since union matters are under the federal ministry,” he said.

Meanwhile the counsel for the state government, Adebayo Haroun maintained that the government did not violate the law nor dissolve 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.

While the counsel for the 5th to the 37th defendants, Taiwo Kupolati SAN, in his argument 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.

“The government issued a document to ensure public safety and order. And since the ad-hoc committee was set up, there has been peace,”

Both counsel also filed notices of preliminary objections, urging the court to dismiss the suit brought by way of originating summons, in view of the conflicting facts deposed to by the parties.

The police was not represented at the proceedings.

In her judgment, Justice Maureen Esowe, first dismissed the defendants’ preliminary objections to the suit insisting that the matter was straight forward and the court had the jurisdiction to hear and determine same.

The judge also held that the act of the Lagos State Govt in suspending the national unions operations in the state and setting up a caretaker committee is illegal and against the provisions of Sections 4 (1), (2)& (3), and 5 (1) &(3), read along with item 34 of the exclusive legislative list, of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.

The court further ruled that the police and the government should have taken action by apprehending and punishing those responsible for the altercation.

The court then ordered the police to stop intimidating the union’s officers while prohibiting the state government from meddling in the exco’s operations any further. The police were also instructed to take down any barriers they had put up around the secretariat of the union and to allow the leaders free access to their offices.

Kupolati, who is the attorney for the members of the ad hoc committee, responded to the verdict by saying that he would analyze it and advise his clients accordingly.

Adekunle Laditan, the state’s attorney in court yesterday, assured the judge that the state would review the ruling as it is a law-abiding government.

Kupolati & Laditan also both clarified to Channels TV that contrary to widespread media reports, Musiliu Akinsanya popularly known as MC Oluomo is not a party in this suit.

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