Court Affirms Baruwa NURTW President, Declares Agbede-led Caretaker Committee Illegal

•NLC hails industrial court’s ruling on leadership dispute

Onyebuchi Ezigbo and Folalumi Alaran in Abuja

The National Industrial Court sitting in Abuja yesterday affirmed Tajudeen  Baruwa as the validly elected President of the National Union of Road Transport Workers  (NURTW) for the second term, just as it sacked the Tajudeen Agbede-led caretaker committee.

Justice Oyebiola Oyewumi also restrained forthwith the former president of the union, Najeem Yasin, who was also the chairman board of trustees from interfering in the day to day running of the affairs of the union.

The presiding judge while delivering her judgment on the leadership crisis rocking the union held that the zonal delegates’ conference across the six zonal councils of the union held on  May 24, 2023 where  Baruwa emerged as president for a second term in office was valid.

The court also validated the quadrennial national delegate conference held on August 23, 2023 at Ta’aL Hotels Lafia Nasarawa State where the president and other national officers emerged and were inaugurated.

Oyewumi  declared as illegal, null and void and unconstitutional the national delegates’ conference held on  October 25, 2023 where the so-called Acting President, Alhaji Isa Ore and his national administrative council were said to have emerged.

She ruled that there was no evidence of crisis in the union and therefore there was no basis for the invocation of  ‘doctrine of necessity’ which led to the constitution of the so-called caretaker committee.

 Recall that that the Lagos State Park Management Committee led by Musiliu Akinsanya (aka MC Oluomo) on August 28, 2023 forcefully took over the secretariat of the union located at Garki 2 after a violent attack on the national officers and staff despite the armed security agents deployed to provide security.

Baruwa was arrested on  September 13, 2023 alongside four other national officers of the union by the police and detained at the former facility of the Special Anti Robbery Squad ( SARS ) in Abuja

 The situation then forced the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) to give the  police 48 hours to vacate the secretariat of the union  or face a shutdown

In a communiqué signed by NLC President, Joe Ajaero, and General Secretary, Emmanuel Ugboaja, the union threatened it would muster all its affiliates for a showdown in support of what it said is the legally elected NURTW leadership.

It accused the police of interfering in the internal affairs of NURTW and other unions, saying the police had usurped powers of arbitration in disputes, contrary to the dictates of statutes governing industrial relations.

Meanwhile, the NLC has commended the judgement by the National Industrial Court recognising the Baruwa-led executive of the union.

A statement signed by Ajaero said the ruling has given hope for freedom, justice and independence of thought in the judiciary.

He blamed the Ministry of Labour and Employment for not summoning the needed courage to ensure justice that came the way of the Baruwa leadership.

“We at the NLC would like to commend the  courage of the National Industrial Court for affirming the executive  of Baruwa as the lawful leadership of the NURTW.

“The judgment is a tribute to the personal qualities of the presiding judge, O. O Oyewumi as well as the growing image of the National Industrial Court as a court to reckon with, as a court of justice and as a court that would not readily  cave in to the overbearing influence of  the executive.

“At a wider level, it is suggestive of hope, freedom, justice and independence of thought in the judiciary for the judicial officers with requisite skill, knowledge and courage to take the right decisions.

“We may wish to recall the unlawful dislodgment of the Baruwa-led leadership actively aided by the police.

“In spite of the openly partisan and  dishonourable role played by the police in the matter, the Ministry of Labour did not summon the needed courage to ensure justice came the way of the Baruwa leadership,” he said.

According to Ajaero, in spite of government’s promise to have the issues resolved “in line with relevant ILO Conventions and the Nigerian Labour Act”, it did nothing.

“It was this failure that led to the matter being taken to the  National Industrial Court  from whence came this laudable judgment,” he added.

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