After a year-long tussle at the National Industrial Court between the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and the Federal Government (FG), the jury, yesterday, ruled in favour of the FG, affirming the creation of two new academic trade unions in universities.
By the court’s order, the two unions, Congress of Nigerian University Academics (CONUA) and the National Association of Medical and Dental Academics (NAMDA) will hence, be recognized as trade unions in Nigerian universities.
The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) had in a suit filed on June 26, 2022, dragged the Minister of Labour and Employment, The Registrar, Trade Union, as well as CONUA and NAMDA to court over it’s reservations for the creation of trade unions with objectives similar to it’s cause.
ASUU, herein referred to as the claimant, through it’s lawyer, Femi Falama, argued that it was unconstitutional for the Registrar of the Trade Union to create another union to carry out the same functions it is responsible for within the same jurisdiction. Falana cited Section 4 (2) of the constitution of Nigeria 1999 as amended and Section 3 (2) of TUA in his query.
He further asserted that the Minister of Labour and Employment alongside The Trade Unions’ Registrar, registered the third and fourth defendants in a bid to split ASUU at a time when the congress had embarked on an indefinite industrial action.
But the four respondents in the suit, Minister of Labour and Employment, The Registrar, Trade Union, as well as CONUA and NAMDA as first, second, third and fourth defendants respectively, thought otherwise.
While the first and second defendants argued that the issues raised by ASUU were speculative and academic, the third defendant averred that the claimant did not put any substantial proof before the court and asked the jury if the claimant’s suit was not liable to be dismissed.
CONUA also asked if the third and fourth defendants were not legally registered.
The fourth defendant on its part, prayed the court to determine if there was any violation in the registration of the two unions.
Delivering judgment, however, the jury, Justice Benedict Kanyip held that in line with the International Labour Organisation ( ILO) Act, there can be more than one trade union within employment.
Justice Kanyip also opposed ASUU’s claims that Section 3 ( 2) of the Trade Union Act made the first and second defendants incompetent to register CONUA and NAMDA to coexist and carry out the same functions in the universities as ASUU.
According to him, the Section does not encourage the monopoly of trade unions, but rather encourages the existence of other trade unions.
“The reliefs prayed by the claimant failed, refused and I so hold. I make no order as to cost”. Kanyip said.
The court also held that the claimant had presented evidence against the first and second defendants who approved the registration of CONUA to operate in the universities as a trade union on October 4, 2022. It said ASUU’s evidence was sourced from an online publication titled ”FG registers 2 new university unions in a bid to split ASUU” – a publication which the fourth defendant claims was only a hearsay evidence.
The court however dismissed the objection and allowed the admissibility as Exhibit 1.
The court also held that the fourth defendant was not registered as a trade union until January 11, collected the certificate of registration on Jan. 13 and formally completed all processes to be registered as a trade union on January 17, 2023.
It therefore ruled that as at June 26, 2022 when ASUU filed the suit, the fourth defendant was not in existence and that ASUU did not have any evidence when it came to court to file the suit, adding that the name under which it sued the fourth defendant was wrongly spelt as “Nigeria Association of Medical Doctors Academics” instead of ” National Association of Medical Doctors Academics”.
The court however added a suit can be allowed if a juristic entity is misnamed.
It concluded by stating that there was no express conferment of exclusive jurisdictional scope of the claimant therefore, the claimant cannot not claim it.
The court added that the claimant failed to show the encroachment of the jurisdictional scope which it cannot lay exclusive right to it by restricting the rights of others, as the second defendant did not lay bare such exclusive rights in its schedule.
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