His Lordship, Hon. Justice Rakiya Haastrup of the Abuja Judicial Division of the National Industrial Court has declared Senior Staff Association of Statutory Corporations and Government Owned Companies - SSACGOC as the rightful labour union to unionise the senior staff of the Federal Housing Authority, restrained the Federal Housing Authority, its officers, staff, agent or privies from stopping the union from exercising its jurisdiction within the bounds of the law.
The Court held that it is in the interest of public order that the right union be allowed to unionize workers who belong to that union as its members, and as prescribed by law.
From facts, the claimant’s- SSACGOC had approached the Court via originating summons sought for the determination whether, by the provisions of the Constitution of the Senior Staff Association of Statutory Corporation and Government Owned Companies, the claimant is the right union to organize the senior staff of the Federal Housing Authority.
An application for joining Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations, Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees (AUPCTRE) as the 2nd defendant in the suit was dismissed for abuse of court process, that the applicant knew that application for joinder shouldn’t have been filed when a judgment was already slated to be delivered and shows the clear intention of the applicant to arrest the judgement of the Court.
Counsel for the defendant, D.T Najime Esq submitted that the Constitution guarantees the right of every person to freely associate and belong to any Trade Union, that the rights are qualified in line with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (As Amended) that the claimant is not the only Trade Union engaged in organising members of the agency.
After careful evaluation of the submissions of both counsel, Delivering Judgment, the presiding Judge, Justice Haastrup held that the freedom to join a trade union or choose which union to join is limited to the unions empowered to operate within a clearly defined jurisdictional scope.
“The law is trite that where the words used in a statute are clear and unambiguous, they must be given their ordinary meaning unless such interpretation would lead to an absurdity and injustice.
“I have done extensive reading of the Constitution and Code of Practice of SSASCGOC, & Federal Housing Authority Act relied upon by the claimant. By Section 4(2) of Exhibit 4B, it is clear that the provisions relate in particular to the defendant (Federal Housing Authority) and it's capacity as a statutory corporation. Again, Rule 3(i) of Exhibit 1A is to the effect that any senior staff of the defendant shall become a member of the claimant (SSASCGOC).
“I think the provisions are clear and unambiguous as it concerns senior staff of the defendant and the right union they should belong to, which is the claimant (SSASCGOC) herein.
“I need to point out here that whilst noting that the right of a worker to decide which union to join is not absolute, that right must, however, be exercised within the limits of the Trade Unions Act Cap T14 LFN 2004.”