Labour Matters

Tenure elongation issue: Court strikes out suit against NULGE president

The National Industrial Court, Owerri Division, has struck out a case filed by some alleged members of the Nigerian Union of Local Government Employee (NULGE) against the national officers of the Union.

The Presiding Judge, Owerri Division of NIC,His Lordship, Hon. Justice Ibrahim Galadima, in his judgement declared the matter as an abuse of judicial process.

According to Justice Galadima, instituting the action as representatives of the union and seeking for the same declaration with the issue that had already been put to bed and is purportedly one of the issues raised on appeal amounts to re-litigating.

The case was instituted by one EkwemChinedu, Onwuachu Henry and UghalaUgoezi (claimants) against NULGE and its national officers.

The claimants instituted the action by way of originating summons, questioning the tenure of the Union National President along with the other National Officers which purportedly commenced in 2015, and the propriety of the elongation of the tenure of the officers of the union at all levels, from the constitutional four-year term to six years.

They sought for a declaration that their tenure as national union officials, ended by effluxion of time in 2019 in accordance with the NULGE Constitutions.

The Defendants filed preliminary application and argued that the suit is an abuse of judicial process being that the subject matter is similar to the one instituted against them in the Abuja division of the Court and that there is an appeal against Court’s previous judgment.

They urged the Court to strike out the case in the interest of justice.

Counsel to the Respondents submitted that the said suit in Abuja had been withdrawn and struck out and further that the earlier suits were filed by different parties to redress different grievances. The counsel thereby urged the Court to dismiss all the grounds of the preliminary objection in the interest of justice.

Delivering Ruling after careful evaluation of the submissions of both counsels, the trial Judge, Hon. Justice Galadima expressed thus: “Although I concede that the Defendants have filed a notice of appeal, it is yet to be duly entered, having not yet compiled and transmitted the records of proceedings. The question here is resolved against these Applicants the implication of which is that the existence of a pending appeal cannot impugn on the Claimants’/Respondents’ rights to institute this action, and I so pronounce.

“Therefore, for the Claimants/Respondents to now institute this action as representatives of the said union and seek for the same declaration, amounts to re-litigating the issue which had already been put to bed by this Court and is purportedly one of the issues raised on appeal.

“However, in order to enforce the portion nullifying the resolution of the SDC which is declaratory in nature, the Claimants must come by way of a writ of complaint to enforce the rights which they believe inured to these Claimants from the Court’s previous declarations.

“Giving the foregone opinions, therefore, striking out this suit is for the time being, with prejudice against these Claimants’ rights to re-institute same, and I so declare.”

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