Court affirms CONUA, NAMDA as trade unions

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The National Industrial Court on Tuesday affirmed the recognition of the Congress of Nigerian University Academics and the National Association of Medical and Dental Academics as trade unions.

The claimant in the suit, the Academic Staff Union of Universities, dragged the Minister of Labour and Employment; The Registrar, Trade Union; CONUA and NAMDA as first, second, third and fourth defendants, respectively, before the NIC.

Delivering judgement, Justice Benedict Kanyip held that, in line with the International Labour Organisation Act, there can be more than one trade union within an employment.

In addition, the judge stated that contrary to the claimant’s submission 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.

Kanyip said that the Section does not encourage the monopoly of trade unions, but rather encourages the existence of other trade unions.

The court said, “The reliefs prayed by the claimant failed, refused and I hold. I made no order as to the cost.”

From the facts, the claimant had instituted the suit via an originating summons filed on June 26, 2022.

The claimant’s counsel, Femi Falana, submitted two questions for determination.

Part of the question was whether, under Section 4 (2) of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 as amended and Section 3 (2) of TUA, the second defendant can register CONUA and NAMDA to carry out the same functions covering the same jurisdiction sphere as the claimant.

The counsel further averred that the second and third defendants registered the third and fourth defendants in a bid to split ASUU.

In reply, the first and second defendants submitted that the court should determine whether the issues raised by the claimant were not speculative and academic.

The third defendant, on its part, raised three issues that bordered on whether the claimant put before the court any proof, whether the claimant’s suit was not liable to be dismissed, and whether the third and fourth defendants were not legally registered.

The fourth defendant submitted for the determination of the court whether there was any violation in the registration of the two unions.

The court, in arriving at its decision, held that the claimant in its submission stated that the first and second defendants approved the registration of CONUA to operate in the universities as a trade union on October 4, 2022.

According to the court, the claimant gave evidence of this assertion from an online publication titled “FG registers two new university unions in a bid to split ASUU.”

Although the fourth defendant objected to the admissibility of the publication in evidence, stating that the publication was hearsay evidence, the court, however, dismissed the objection and allowed its 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 January 13 and formally completed all processes to be registered as a trade union on January 17, 2023.

The court, therefore, ruled that as of June 26, 2022, when the claimant filed the suit, the fourth defendant was not in existence.

The court in the judgement equally said that the claimant did not have any evidence when it came to court to file the suit.

Adding that the name under which the claimant 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 that a suit can be allowed if a juristic entity is misnamed.

The judge stated that the first and second defendants argued that because the claimant could not produce evidence that the two unions were registered by them before filing the suit, the action rendered the suit as speculative, academic and should be dismissed.

In defending the suit, the third defendant also submitted that the suit was vague and not precise and described the claimant’s claim as not substantiative.

The court concluded by stating that there was no express conferment of exclusive jurisdictional scope on the claimant, and therefore the claimant cannot claim it.

The court added that the claimant failed to show the encroachment of the jurisdictional scope, which it cannot lay exclusive right to by restricting the rights of others, as the second defendant did not lay bare such exclusive rights in its schedule. (NAN)