By Emmanuel Ugwu-Nwogo
The National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) in Owerri, Imo State, has restrained the national leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) from removing the Chairman of the Abia State Council of the union, Uchenna Obigwe.
The National Executive Council(NEC) of NLC had in a letter dated February 18, 2021, signed by the NLC General Secretary, Emmanuel Ugboaja, announced the removal of the Abia State NLC chairman.
The National Administrative Committee, which reviewed the report of the NLC Election Petition Committee, had approved Obigwe’s removal by NEC and replaced him with former state President of the National Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE), Eze Idima.
In justifying its action, the NLC national leadership said Obigwe’s removal was based on the recommendations of the Election Petition Committee which alleged that Obigwe had “mislead” the Abia State labour union to vote him into office during the last state delegates conference held in 2019.
But the embattled state NLC leader headed to NICN in Owerri which granted him interlocutory injunction to stay in office pending the determination of the substantive suit he filed challenging his removal. The defendants in the suit No: NICN /010/10/2021 included the National President of NLC, Ayuba Wabba, and General Secretary, Emmanuel Ugboaja.
Among other reliefs being sought, Obigwe wants the court to make a declaration that his removal “is illegal, void, and unconstitutional as the exercise of such powers is outside the functions of the National Administrative Council as stipulated in Article 9(2) of the Constitution of the Nigeria Labour Congress (as amended February 5 and 6 2019).”
He also wants the court to declare that the NWC of NLC lacks the power to approve his removal from office, and that the report of the Election Petition Committee of NLC was null and void, as he was not given fair hearing.
Speaking with journalists in his office, Obigwe alleged that there was a gang up against him by some ‘disgruntled elements within the labour movement at the state and national level’, who felt uncomfortable with the cordial relationship between his leadership and the Abia State Government.
Obigwe, who has been at the helm of affairs of the state labour since 2015, stated that the NLC was embarking on a voyage of illegality, describing it as “a fallacy” for anybody to think that he has ceased to be the chairman of the state NLC before the end of his second tenure.
The state NLC leader faulted those accusing him of hobnobbing with the state government, saying his partnership with the government has not in any way affected his protection of worker’s interest.
Obigwe, therefore, urged the Ayuba Wabba-led NLC national leadership to refrain from sowing seeds of discord in the state NLC by attempting to use “illegal means” to remove a duly elected state leadership.