The National Industrial Court, sitting in Owerri, Imo State has ordered the Nigeria Labour Congress to maintain the status quo ante over the current leadership crisis rocking the Abia State chapter.
According to the court’s ruling made available to newsmen in Umuahia on Wednesday, the Presiding Judge, Justice I.S. Galadima, ordered that Uchenna Obigwe remains in office as the state NLC Chairman.
Galadima gave the order on Wednesday, saying Obigwe should continue in office “until the final determination of the suit.
“Any disobedience of this order shall amount to contempt.”
He said the court arrived at its decision “upon listening and considering the arguments by the respective counsel” for the claimant (Obigwe) and the respondents.
The respondents included NLC, its National President and General Secretary, Ayuba Wabba and Emmanuel Ugboaja respectively.
A copy of the ruling indicated that U.O. Ukairo appeared for Obigwe, while P.S. Ndiokwere, holding brief for Folabi Kuti, appeared for the respondents.
The court had earlier vacated its interim injunction of March 10, restraining the national leadership of NLC from interfering in the leadership structure of Abia State NLC.
The judge said the matter was placed on the court’s accelerated list and adjourned to Nov. 11 “for cross-examination and possibly defence”.
Meanwhile, in a statement issued to newsmen, Obigwe warned those “who may wish to flout the court order in any guise to be mindful of the implications”.
He advised those allegedly instigating the leadership crisis in Abia NLC “to give peace a chance” for industrial peace to reign.
NAN reports that the National Executive Committee of the NLC at its meeting on February 17 removed Obigwe from office and replaced him with a certain Eze Idima.
NEC alleged that Obigwe was having “undue romance” with the Abia State Government and keeping two jobs in the state civil service.
But Obigwe denied the allegations and described government and labour as “inseparable partners in progress”.
He told newsmen that the NLC constitution did not give NEC the power to appoint state chairmen, adding that positions in the congress are filled by election.
He added: “For this reason, the president lacked the power to remove me.
“Even if I committed any offence as they alleged, I should be given a fair hearing.
“He cannot replace me with a man I defeated in the 2015 and 2019 chairmanship elections, yet I have three vice chairmen.
“The era of impunity and intimidation has gone.
“Trade unionism is about democracy, not dictatorship.”
He alleged that his purported removal was orchestrated by chieftains of the NLC, who allegedly conspired and sold the four plots of land allocated to the union by Orji Kalu’s administration.
“They started fighting to remove me after I recovered the land, which they sold for N20 million and are now made to refund the money to the buyer,” Obigwe said.