By Gbenga Ogunbufunmi
Despite the landmark consent judgment of the Court of Appeal sitting in Lagos compelling the Federal Ministry Labour and Employment through the office of the Registrar of Trade Unions to issue certificate of Registration to Agricultural and Allied Union of Nigeria (AAUN) as agreed by parties, the ministry is yet to comply with the order of court after seven years.
The two contending parties, Agricultural and Allied Employees Union of Nigeria (AAEUN) and Agricultural and Allied Workers Union of Nigeria (AAWUN) had at a peace-mending meeting on June 19, 2012 agreed to set aside their different names: AAEUN and AAWUN and adopt and merge with a common name known as AAUN.
Why this matter was still pending at the court, one of the unions AAEUN circumvented the process and approached the office of the Registrar of the Trade Unions of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, Abuja and caused it to issue certificate of registration in its favour in contravention of the agreement.
At the conclusion of the matter at the Court of Appeal, the consent judgment was entered that the Registrar of the Trade Unions should reverse herself and recognise and issue certificate of registration only to Agricultural and Allied Union of Nigeria (AAUN), a new name as finally agreed by contending parties. The ministry is yet to comply.
Instead of complying with this order of court, the Registrar after being committed to prison by a Federal High Court, Lagos on March 2, 2018 as a contemnor of the court’s earlier order to issue same certificate to AAUN, escaped arrest by the police and in hiding, her office quickly withdrew the certificate of recognition and registration of AAUN with a letter dated January 31, 2019 and signed by the director of Trade Union Services and Industrial Relations Department of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, Mrs. O.U. Akpan.
The letter titled: “Compliance with Court order”, reads in part: “I am directed to refer to the above mentioned suits: FHC/L/CS/311/2009 and CA/L/92/10 and Appeal Court judgment involving your unions and to inform you that the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, pursuant to its statutory mandate of ensuring a peaceful industrial relation climate, and especially in compliance with the consent judgment as referred to above has decided as follow: (1) The Ministry forthwith declines recognition of both the Agricultural and Allied Employees Union of Nigeria (AAEUN) and Agricultural and Allied Workers Union of Nigeria (AAWUN) factions as unions in the agriculture sector.
Consequent upon the above, the Ministry hereby withdraws the certificate of registration Reg.No.0112 issued to AAEUN.”In view of the above, both factions AAEUN and AAWUN are hereby directed to meet and come up with a registrable name in compliance with Section 27 of the Trade Unions Act CAP.T14 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria (LFN) 2004.
Unfortunately, this letter did not address the consent judgment as entered by the Court of Appeal, Lagos on December 6, 2012 which reads: “The application dated and filed 27/712 is hereby granted as prayed. In line with Order 16 Rule 4 of the Court of Appeal Rules, 2011, the terms of settlement agreed upon by the parties to this appeal is hereby adopted and incorporated as the judgment of the court in respect of this appeal”.
On the basis of this judgment the Ministry wrote to the secretary of AAWUN on May 10, 2018 informing him of its readiness to comply with the order of court by issuing the certificate of registration to Agricultural and Allied Union of Nigeria (AAUN) which never came.
The letter signed by J.A. Damachi on behalf of the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige reads in part: “Sequel to our letter Ref.No.ML.ITU/1/IV/178 dated 11th April, 2018 on the above subject matter, I am directed to inform you that this office in compliance with the court order in respect of suits Nos. FAL/L CS/311/09 and APP/No.CA/L/90/10 is ready to issue the Union with a certificate in the name, Agricultural and Allied Union of Nigeria (AAUN).
“In view of this, you are requested to show evidence of compliance with Section 27 of the Trade Unions Act, CAP, T14 LFN (2004) as a condition precedent to further action by this office”.
All the conditions requested by the Ministry were met by the unions in agreement, but the certificate was not issued until it came out with the decision to disqualify all the factions from recognition in disobedience of the orders of court.
The factional chairman of AAWUN, Mr. Obafemi Oyenubi, who spoke on the issue said the ministry is yet to address the issue, and that the only solution to the dispute is for the ministry to respect the agreement of parties which the Appeal Court entered as consent judgment of the court on December 6, 2012 by issuing the certificate to AAUN.