The appointment of a Caretaker Committee, known as Parks and Garages Administrators, by the Lagos State government has been overturned by a National Industrial Court.
The Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria, RTEAN, was also reactivated in the state by Justice Maureen Esowe.
RTEAN had launched a lawsuit against the state government and other defendants for stopping operations, taking over garages, and appointing the Parks and Garages Administrators as a caretaker organization.
The union, represented by Elisha Kurah, SAN, argued that the state cannot intervene in the affairs of a trade union registered under the Trade Unions Act of 2004, nor can it dissolve the union, claiming that such matters were handled by the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment.
The state administration, on the other hand, claimed that they did not break the law or disband the national body’s functions in the state, but rather attempted to maintain law and order by forming the ad hoc committee after violence broke out between the unions.
Ruling on the case, Justice Esowe dismissed the defendants’ preliminary objections to the suit, saying the matter was straightforward forward and that the court has jurisdiction to hear and determine, with no serious dispute to warrant an exchange of pleadings.
The judge held that the act of the Lagos State in suspending the National union’s operations in the state and setting up a caretaker committee was illegal and against the provisions of Sections 4 (1), (2)& (3), and 5 (1) &(3), read along with item 34 of the exclusive legislative list, of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.
The judge also held that the government and the Police should have intervened by arresting and prosecuting those behind the fracas and not inquiring into the dispute.
Lagos State government were further restrained from interfering with the operations of the union’s exco and ordered the police to refrain from intimidating the union’ s officers and to remove all barricades it imposed around their secretariat and grant them unfettered access to their offices.
It is expected that the Lagos State government and the Parks and Garages Administrators will study the judgment and act accordingly.