Court Restrains Nigeria University Admin and Technical Staff Union from Operating as Trade Union

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NICN
National Industrial Court

His Lordship, Hon. Justice I. J. Essien of Lagos Judicial division of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria, on Thursday 14th February 2019 in a landmark judgment restrained O. A. AJAGBE and WENYA MUMIYO (1st and 2nd defendants) and their led executive body and members from operating or performing the functions of a Trade Union since Nigeria University Admin and Technical Staff Union (NUATSU), 0.A.U which they sought to operate and represent is not a registered one.

The court directed OBAFEMI AWOLOWO UNIVERSITY ILE-IFE ( 3rd defendant) to refund to NON-ACADEMIC STAFF UNION OF EDUCATIONAL AND ASSOCIATED INSTITUTIONS (NASU) (claimant) all money due deducted from all eligible members that was wrongfully paid to the Nigeria University Admin and Technical Staff Union (NUATSU), O.A.U within 30 days.

The claimant in this action which is a registered trade Union by an originating summons dated and filed on the 23/8/2017, sought the determination among others Whether by the provision of Section 2(1) of the Trade Unions Act, Cap. Tl4 LFN 2004, the Nigeria University Admin and Technical Staff Union, (NUATSU), OAU Coordinated and represented by the 1st  and 2nd  defendants can operate and perform the functions of a Trade Union when same has not been duly registered under the Trade Unions Act or any other law in Nigeria.

Whether by the Provision of Section 3(2) of the Trade Unions Act, Cap. T14, LFN 2004, the Nigeria University Admin And Technical Staff Union (NUATSU), OAU being Coordinated and represented by the 1st and 2nd defendants can be registered as a Trade Union to represent the Non-Academic Staff of the Obafemi Awolowo University where there already exists a Trade Union such as the claimant.

Upon the determination of these questions, the claimant seeks the following relieves from the court among others; A DECLARATION that by the Provision of Section 2 ( 1) of the Trade Unions Act, Cap. Tl 4 LFN, 2004, the Nigeria University Admin And Technical Staff Union (NUATSU), OAU Coordinated and represented by the 1st and 2nd Defendants cannot operate and perform the functions of a Trade Union when same has not been duly registered under the Trade Unions Act or any other law in Nigeria.

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A DECLARATION that by the Provision of Section 25 of the Trade Unions Act, Cap. Tl4 LFN 2004, the 3rd defendant, the Obafemi Awolowo University is bound under the provision of this law to recognize and continue with the recognition of the claimant as a registered Trade Union specified in Part A and B of the Third Schedule to the Trade Unions Act for as long as the Claimant remain a registered Trade Union conferred with the jurisdictional scope of unionizing all eligible Non-Academic Staff of the 3rd Defendant.

AN ORDER of this Honourable Court compelling or directing the 3rd defendant to resume and continue with the deduction of check-off dues from the salary of all eligible members of the Claimant in its employment and remit same to the headquarters of the claimant within 30 days from the grant of this order.

The originating summons is supported by the resolution of congress denouncing NASU membership with signatures of members of the staff of the 3rd defendant under the umbrella of (NUATSU).

The defendant counsel in his written submission raised a preliminary objection to issues formulated by the claimant that they are hypothetical and academic.

The claimant argued that freedom to opt out of membership of a trade union can only be exercised individually not collective or group opting out of a union.

The defendant counsel in his argument contended that the non-academic staff of the defendant have unfettered right to opt out of membership of the claimant that this they have done through their directive to the bursar of the 3rd defendant to stop the deduction of check-off dues from their salary.

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The claimant submits that (NUATSU) being an unregistered association cannot perform the function of a registered trade union while the defendant that it has submitted its application for registration to the Registrar of Trade Union.

After careful evaluation of all the processes filed, and the submissions of the learned Counsel from both sides. The Court presided by Hon. Justice I. J. Essien expressed thus;

“Even though the right to opt out of a trade union is allowed, an employee cannot join any union of their choice as they sought to do by signing the annexure as members of the unregistered Nigerian University Admin and Technical Staff Union (NUATSU), and as a group trying to opt out of membership of the claimant.

“I have examined exhibit ‘A’ attached to the claimant affidavit. That exhibit does not satisfy the requirement of the law as regards opting out of the membership of the claimant by the staff of the 3rd defendant in so far as it is a resolution of a congress of employees of the 3rd defendant.

“Also exhibit attached to the affidavit of the defendant is also in violation of the requirement of section 5 (3) b of the Labour Act.

“Accordingly the purported renunciation of membership of the claimant by staff of the 3rd defendant is hereby declared unlawful, wrongful, null and void and of no effect whatsoever.

“The 3rd defendant cannot recognise ‘Nigeria University Admin and Technical Staff Union (NUATSU) O.A.U or any other union by whatsoever called as a trade union to unionise non- academic staff of the 3rd defendant so long as the claimant remains a trade union.”

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In all, the court nullified and set aside the purported collective or group dis-engagement or denunciation of their membership of the claimant by those whose names and signatures appeared on the said list of attendees attached to the 1st and 2nd defendants’ letter dated 31st July 2017.

Also ordered that 1st and 2nd defendants and their led executive body and members are hereby restrained from operating or performing the functions of a Trade Union since the said union, Nigeria University Admin and Technical Staff Union ((NUATSU), 0.A.U which they sought to operate and represent is not a registered one.

Ordered the 3rd defendant to recognise and continue recognise the claimant as a registered trade union with the jurisdictional scope of unionising all its eligible Non-Academic Staff with the exclusion of all other unions.

The 3rd defendant is hereby directed to refund to the claimant all money due to the claimant as a result of deducted check-off dues from all eligible members of the claimant in O.A.U that was wrongfully paid to the Nigeria University Admin and Technical Staff Union (NUATSU), O.A.U by the 3rd Defendant within 30 days from the date of this judgment.

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