Union’s practice of seeking approval of Traditional Ruler to operate is Unlawful – Court Rules
The Presiding Judge, Yenagoa division of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria, His Lordship, Hon. Justice Bashar Alkali has restrained the NATIONAL UNION OF ROAD TRANSPORT WORKERS [NURTW], members of Keke/Okada Unit of NURTW, Amassoma Chapter, Bayelsa State Council from harassing, intimidating the ROAD TRANSPORT EMPLOYERS’ ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (RTEAN) Amassoma Chapter, Bayelsa State Council and or interfering with the their right to operate in Amassoma Town in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of Bayelsa State.
The court also declared the practice of trade union seeking the approval of the Paramount Ruler to operate within a community as unlawful.
The court held that the recognition of a trade union is the exclusive preserve of the law and its operations are guided by the Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress that a Paramount Ruler or Council of Chiefs cannot dictate which union should or should not operate within a community.
The RTEAN had sought against the defendants for A DECLARATION that they are entitled to operate, unionize and admit into their membership willing Okada owners and self-employed Okada riders in Amassoma Town, Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of Bayelsa State among others.
The NURTW also Counter-claimed for A DECLARATION that the RTEAN members have no right to operate in the Okada section in Amassoma Town as agreed by the decision made by the Council of Chief and is binding on both parties.
The NURTW submitted that it is the practice of the people of Amassoma town that unions that intend to operate in Amassoma must obtain approval from the paramount ruler and members of the Amassoma council of chiefs that it was the Council of Chiefs that gave the 1st defendant the sole power to operate motorcycles as commercial transport in Amassoma town.
And further maintained that it is the Council of Chiefs that is preventing the Claimants from working because the Council do not want two unions to operate in the same sector urged the Court to dismiss the case.
In opposition, RTEAN averred that the jurisdiction of the NURTW does not extend to road transport employers in Nigeria and self-employed persons engaged in the transportation of passengers and goods by road.
Delivering the Judgment, the presiding Judge, Hon. Justice Bashar Alkali held that both unions, which are properly registered, have the right to operate within any jurisdiction without obstruction.
“To begin with, it is strange to imagine that the leaders of a community would determine the presence or otherwise of a legitimate trade union within their community. I do not want to believe that the Council of Chiefs did take that step. The purpose of the setting up of a trade union at any material time is to carter for the legitimate welfare of its members.
“The fact that a union must get express approval from the Council of Chiefs before operating within the community is a clear obstruction of the fundamental right to peaceful assembly and association as stipulated under section 40 of the 1999 Constitution.
“I am of the opinion that the extent of the scope and operations of the Parties herein are clearly defined and different. While the Claimants operate to protect the rights and interests of the Road Transport Employers, the scope of the Defendants’ operation relates to the Road Transport Workers. Although the 1st Defendant is specific on its scope as it serves as an umbrella body for drivers operating motorbikes, taxi cabs, tricycles, buses (both intra and inter-state services), trailers and lorries that engage in the conveyance of passengers and goods.”