A National Industrial Court sitting in Lagos has nullified the Lagos State Government’s appointment of a Caretaker Committee, known as Parks and Garages Administrators, and reinstated the operations of the Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria in the state.
Justice Maureen Esowe gave the ruling in a suit by the RTEAN against the state government and other defendants.
The Lagos State Government had dissolved the RTEAN, suspended its operations and taken over the garages.
The RTEAN had dragged the government to court in October 2022 over the alleged dissolution of the elected Executive Committee of the union in the state and the appointment of a caretaker body, known as the Parks and Garages Administrators.
The defendants joined the state Governor; Attorney-General of the state; Sola Giwa, a Special Adviser to the Governor on Transportation; Commissioner, Lagos State Police Command; and all members of the Caretaker Committee.
The union 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.
It also said the state cannot dissolve the union, contending that such matters were handled by Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment.
But the state government had argued that the government did not violate the law or 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.
In his judgment on Tuesday, Justice Esowe, dismissed the defendants’ preliminary objections to the suit, saying the matter was straightforward, which the court has jurisdiction to hear and determine, with no serious dispute to warrant an exchange of pleadings.
The judge held that the act of Lagos State in suspending the national union’s operations in the state and setting up a caretaker committee was 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 judge also held that the government and the police should have intervened by arresting and prosecuting those behind the fracas and not inquiring into the dispute.
Justice Esowe restrained the Lagos State Government from further interfering with the operations of the union’s executive and ordered the police to refrain from intimidating the union’s officers and to remove all barricades it imposed around their secretariat and to grant them unfettered access to their offices.
Reacting to the judgment, counsel to the Lagos State Government and the Parks and Garages Administrators said they would study the judgment and act accordingly.