The Hon. President of the National Industrial Court, His Lordship, Hon. Justice Benedict Kanyip, Ph.D. has declared the circular dated January 11 2021 issued by the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) in dissolving Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations, Civil Service Technical, and Recreational Services Employees (AUPCTRE) as null and void and has no binding legal effect.
Justice Kanyip declared that the decisions reached against the union via the circular are arbitrary, unwarranted, oppressive, and amount to interference and violation of the union's right to freely associate and organize as a trade union.
The court further restrained the Corporate Affairs Commission, its registrar and their agents, privies, servants or whomsoever from disrupting and interfering with the activities of the union; awarded the payment of the sum of One Million Naira (N1,000,000.00) as general damages, Three Hundred Thousand Naira (N300,000.00) cost of action in favour of the union within 30 days.
From facts, the claimant – Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations, Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees had asked for determination amongst others whether it does not amount to oppression and usurpation of powers for the Corporate Affairs Commission to purportedly dissolve its trade union activities, issuing queries to its members and directing them to vacate their offices, based on issues which have no bearing on their conditions of service and the core mandate of the commission.
In addition, the union's averred that the commission did not afford them a fair hearing before proceeding to issue and implement the directives of the circular, thereby disrupting and interfering in the union activities, that such action has no legal basis, urged the court to hold so.
In defense, the CAC sought for the dismissal or striking out of the suit on the premised that the Court lacks jurisdiction to hear and determine the case as constituted for being incompetent and an abuse of court process that the action was filed without giving the registrar of the commission the requisite statutory pre-action notice before filing of the action among others.
The commission submitted that the circumstances of the case are related to the administrative act between the agency and its employees that those queried are senior staff not within the dragnet of membership of the union, urged the Court to strike out the suit in its entirety.
The agency counsel O. O. Olowolafe Esq with B. Akinlawon Esq urged the Court to hold among others that the case of the union is premature because it pre-empts the decision of the Court in another pending suit before the court which seeks interpretation and application of the case on which the union case is premised.
Delivering the judgment, the Hon. President of the Court, Hon. Justice Benedict Kanyip dismissed all the objections for lacking merit and held that the claimant has the locus standi to bring the action.
In opposition, the union counsel Victor Ogbonna Esq with O. K. Rugbere Esq described the arguments of the commission as misconceived, urged the Court to so hold and resolve the sole issue in their favour.
The court held that the commission assertion that a pending suit was before the Court for the interpretation and application of the judgment was misleading as that case was concluded and judgment delivered on 27 May 2021.
Justice Kanyip held that the rule against non-interference by an employer in trade union activities of the union(s) in its workplace dictates that the commission must keep off the running of the amalgamated Union of Public Corporations, Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees.
“The defendants setting up a forensic audit committee to audit the accounts of the claimant’s project is tantamount to interference with the legitimate activities of the union. The function to check the accounts of a trade union is that of the Registrar of Trade Unions, not the defendants’.” Justice Kanyip ruled