Court Stops NCSU Delegates Conference Following Disagreements on Constitution to Use

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THE Nigeria Civil Service Union (NCSU), the country’s oldest trade union founded in 1912, is again facing another steep test following an order by the Port Harcourt Division of the Federal High Court restraining it (NCSU) from conducting its National Delegates Conference pending the determination of a substantive suit.

The interim order, which was granted by His Lordship, the Honourable Justice S. Dalyop Pam, on May 18, 2022, followed a Motion Exparte filed on May 18, 2022 in a suit brought before the court by the plaintiff, Comrade Menele Ziadam Nzidee, against NCSU and three others.

In the Exparte Motion filed by his counsel, Mohammed Ndarani Mohammed (SAN) from Ndarani (SAN) & Co, Solace Law Chambers, Abuja; Comrade Nzidee prayed the court for four orders, namely; “An interim order…restraining the 1st Defendant/Respondent [NCSU] whether acting by itself, through the Public Trustee appointed for it by the President of the National Industrial Court or through its Agents, Officers, Employees, Servants, Assigns, Privies, Representatives or otherwise howsoever called or described from holding its National Delegates Conference (Physical or Virtual) conducting the election for National Executive Council (NEC) or any other election slated to hold between 20th and 22nd May, 2022 or any other decided date pending the hearing and determination of the Motion on Notice.

“An interim order…restraining the President of the National Industrial Court from Directing, prescribing and instructing the Public Trustee appointed for the 1st Defendant on how to undertake his mandate of holding National Delegate Conference (Physical or Virtual) of the 1st Defendant or any other election slated to hold between 20th and 22nd May, 2022 or on any other decided date pending the determination of the Motion on Notice.

“An Order of interim injunction directing all the parties to maintain status quo pending the hearing and determination of the Motion on Notice.

“And for such further other order(s) as this Honourable Court may deem fit to make in the circumstances.”

The Interim Orders

Justice Pam in his ruling granted all the prayers of Comrade Nzidee. “After reading the affidavit in support of the Motion paper sworn to by Comrade Menele Ziadam Nzidee, of No. 5 Chief Amadi Street, Eagle Island, Port Harcourt, Rivers State and filed at this Court’s Registry… It is hereby ordered as follows:

“That an interim order of this Honourable Court is hereby granted restraining the 1st Defendant/Respondent whether acting by itself, through the Public Trustee appointed for it by the President of the National Industrial Court or through its Agents, Officers, Employees, Servants, Assigns, Privies, Representatives or otherwise howsoever called or described from holding its National Delegates Conference (Physical or Virtual) conducting the election for National Executive Council (NEC) or any other election slated to hold between 20th and 22nd May, 2022 or any other decided date pending the hearing and determination of the Motion on Notice.

“That an interim order of this Honourable Court is hereby made restraining the President of the National Industrial Court from Directing, prescribing and instructing the Public Trustee appointed for the 1st Defendant on how to undertake his mandate of holding National Delegate Conference (Physical or Virtual) of the 1st Defendant or any other election slated to hold between 20th and 22nd May, 2022 or on any other decided date pending the determination of the Motion on Notice.

“That order of interim injunction is hereby granted directing all the parties to maintain status quo pending the hearing and determination of the Motion on Notice.

Justice Pam thereafter adjourned sitting to 3rd June, 2022 for mention of the substantive matter.

The interim order has been communicated to NCSU’s Public Trustee and copied the President of the National Industrial Court and the Chief Justice of the Federation in a letter dated 20th May, 2022 and signed by Professor Abdullahi Shehu Zuru of Ndarani (SAN) & Co.

The letter, entitled: “Notice of Enrolled Order of Court – Suit No: FHC/PH/CS/78?2022 Between Comrade Menele Ziadam Nzidee V. Nigeria Civil Service Union & 3 ORS Delivered on the 19th Day of May, 2022 Before His Lordship Hon. Justice S. Dalyop Pam of Federal High Court of Nigeria, Port Harcourt Judicial Division,” reads: “With due honour and respect to you Sir, the above subject refers;

“We represent the Plaintiff/Applicant in the above suit, hence we humbly wish to notify you officially of the above subject herein attached (Certified True Copy of Enrolled Order of the Court) for further clarification.

“While expecting your understanding and strict adherence to the Rule of Law, accept the assurances of our esteemed Law Firm at all time.”

Genesis of current litigation

National Record gathered from an authoritative source at the NCSU headquarters that the current litigation could be traced to disagreements over which constitution, either that of 2005 or 2016, that could be adopted as the valid Constitution of NCSU when the court-appointed Public Trustee of the union, Dr Monday O. Ubani Esq., resumed last March and began to make arrangements for the conduct of his major mandate of conducting the union’s delegates conference.

…[T]he only registered constitution, and the constitution being referred to by the ruling of Justice B. A. Adejumo, OFR herein attached as Annexure C, remains the 2005 constitution as can be seen on the date of the ruling 20th September, 2016 far before the date of meeting for ratification of the recommendation of the constitution review committee’s report as attached (Annexure B herein).

When there seem to be no consensus in the debate especially when the Public Trustee was under tremendous pressure given the deadline of his mandate and therefore was disposed to adopting the 2016 version of the union’s constitution, Comrade Nzidee’s counsel, Mohammed Ndarani Mohammed (SAN), in a letter dated April 12, 2022, asked the President of the National Industrial Court to give further clarification with regard to the NIC judgement delivered by Justice Sanusi Kado on October 25, 2019 to guide the Public Trustee.

In his response in a letter dated April 14, 2022, Justice Kanyip, President of the NIC, stated that having carefully read through the judgment of Justice Kado does not nullify the whole 2016 Constitution, but only a portion of it.

Justice Kanyip stated: “I have carefully read the judgment of Hon. Justice Sanusi Kado dated 25th October, 2019 in respect of the subject matter suit. His Lordship’s order in the judgment that is relevant in this instance is that “An order is hereby made for the 3rd defendant not to recognise and register any amendment of the Constitution of the 2nd defendant in order to allow any amendment of the 2nd defendant’s Constitution in order to Allow any official of the 2nd defendant to continue to act for the 2nd defendant after his or her due retirement from the civil service of Nigeria, whether State or Federal”.

“It is clear from the above that the order of His Lordship, Kado, J, in the said judgment is not the nullification of the whole 2016 Constitution, but the nullification of that part that has to do with the retired officers of the union that were elected based on the amendment after their due retirement.

“To this extent, the 2016 Constitution is the extant Constitution of the Union. The Trustee is therefore to conduct election for the national body of the union based on the existing structure, except where it is discovered that a member of the state delegate is elected or holds office after he/she has duly retired from the civil service, whether State or Federal”.

2016 Constitution not in existence, never registered, Nzidee’s replies Justice Kanyip

Comrade Nzidee’s lawyers, Ndarani (SAN) & Co, disagreed with Justice Kanyip’s position pointing out that “the alleged 2016 constitution of the Nigeria Civil Service Union was not in existence and was never registered with the Registrar of Trade Union[s]”.

In the letter dated April 29, 2022, and signed by Clement Chukwuemeka Esq., Comrade Nzidee’s lawyers stated: “It is worthy of note to appreciate that the Bar where we belong and the Bench where my Lord belongs is two inseparable organs towards administration of justice, and each of the organs always strives to complement the effort of each other in arriving to the just determination of every dispute for peace and harmonious life of litigants after every dispute.

According to the counsel, “if the alleged 2016 Constitution was registered without conceding, who registered it?, how did he or she derive legitimacy to do so, the Court having restrained all parties to maintain status quo?

“Our stand so far have [sic] not been for the interest of our Client (the 2nd Respondent/Judgment Creditor) rather to assist the trustee through your noble office in arriving at a just and equitable means of implementing the judgment of Appeal Court which affirmed all the decisions as held by Hon. Justice Sanusi Kado of National Industrial Court of Nigeria, Abuja Judicial Division in all the rulings and judgment of the Court, including the rulings of Rtrd Lordship, Hon Justice B.A. ADEJUMO, OFR (former President of NICN) who handled the matter before re-assigning it to Justice Sanusi Kado.

“It is with greatest humility and honour to your person and that of your office that we graciously wish to respond to the letter dated the 14th April, 2022 and further notify my Lord to note the following;

“That the alleged 2016 constitution of the Nigeria Civil Service Union was not in existence and was never registered with the Registrar of Trade Union, see the only exhibited constitution as attached in the transmitted record of appeal (as Exhibit B I the RECORD).

“That my lord is urged to look very well again the true interpretation of “OR” as used in the orders of the court thus; “An order is hereby made for the 3rd defendant not to recognize and register any amendment of the constitution of the 2nd defendant OR order to allow any amendment of the 2nd defendant constitution in order to allow any official………………………………………..whether state or federal”

“That this case was instituted base on the letter of 23rd November, 2015 tagged Harmonization of state delegates conference of some state/federal councils and tenure of elected officials of the union and a planned tenure elongation of Comrade Ekiri [sic] Mohammed and others which was scheduled to be ratified at the special delegates’ conference in Kaduna, Kaduna State sometimes in March 2016.  See ANNEXURE A and B respectively.”

Nzidee’s counsel also argued that the only registered constitution of the NCSU and the constitution being referred to in the ruling of Justice B. A. Adejumo is the 2005 Constitution of the union.

“…[T]he only registered constitution, and the constitution being referred to by the ruling of Justice B. A. Adejumo, OFR herein attached as Annexure C, remains the 2005 constitution as can be seen on the date of the ruling 20th September, 2016 far before the date of meeting for ratification of the recommendation of the constitution review committee’s report as attached (Annexure B herein).

“…[T]he Registrar of Trade Union would not have legitimize [sic] the alleged 2016 Constitution if any as the extant Constitution of the Union having been a party in the suit from inception, and having been restrained from doing anything contrary, by Justice Kado Sanusi in the ruling of 1st November, 2018 which nullified the delegate conference of the Union that was held on the 25th and 26th January, 2018. Herein attached as Annexure D

“…[T]he ousted leadership of the Union knew the inefficiency the non-registration of 2016 Union Constitution posed on them quickly registered the 2020 tyrannical and illegal Constitution which the alleged President of the Union utilized to perform all unrecognized leadership role before it was nullified by the Nigeria Industrial Court and affirmed by the appeal Court in Appeal No. CA/A/1089/2019,” the counsel pointed out.

Ndarani (SAN) & Co. therefore called on Justice Kanyip to verify from the Registrar of Trade Unions that has so far been registered with it prior to, during the pendency and after the litigation under reference.

According to the counsel, “if the alleged 2016 Constitution was registered without conceding, who registered it?, how did he or she derive legitimacy to do so, the Court having restrained all parties to maintain status quo?”

The counsel also argued that in asking the trustee to use part of an “unregistered and nullified 2016 constitution” amounts to “legitimizing actions of the Union leadership from 2016 till the appointment of trustee as well as upturning the rulings and judgment of the courts and we know the danger such imposition may result going forward.”

The counsel further posited: “That my lord is requested to also see record of proceeding of Wednesday 6th, December, 2017 herein attached as Annexure E. and the Ruling of Justice Sanusi Kado on the 6th February, 2018 herein attached as Annexure F to appreciate that all that was done from 2016 till date was illegal and void. And that was why the appeal court affirmed the NICN judgment.

It is worthy of note to inform my Lord that the only Constitution tendered in the cause of this suit was the 2005 Constitution without any objection by parties and nothing more, this can be verified from the Courts’ records as the original copy is still in Courts’ custody as part of Exhibits. My lord is enjoined to critically evaluate the reasons for this dispute, date of commencing this suit, go through the originating Processes, exhibits tendered, rulings held, and judgment of courts, my lord will appreciate our stands as well as not to allow contemnors to continue to embitter around the union towards aggravating the minds of law abiding union members. This is a call with utmost good faith from a lawyer and a friend of the bench.

“That if the 2005 constitution remain [sic] the extant constitution of the union by our analogy which we verily believe same,  a cursory look at our letter of 12th day of April, 2022, vis-à-vis the 2005 constitution of the union herein attached for purposes of clarity, the Rule 31 sub (c) of that constitution states in summary that; dissolution of national administrative council (NAC) automatically affects both state and federal administrative councils (May we humbly urge my lord to read through our last letter of 12th April, 2022 on the provisions of 2005  union constitution and the need to dissolve all organs and appoint caretakers by the appointed trustees for equity and fair play).

“In conclusion we believe that only 2005 Constitution of the Union remains the Constitution registered with the trade union legally and nothing more. Its adherence will place every member in equal footing, and shall prevent further rancor amongst union members, since everything done from 2016 when this suit commenced till date as seen in the eyes of the Law were void including composition of state structure that will participate in the union national delegate conference to be convoked by the Public Trustee.

“We hope that my Lord shall look deeper than necessary to appreciate that all actions from 2016 when the suit was initiated till the appointment of Public Trustee was void and may not be acceptable by any sane and democratic mind in the interest of justice.

“It is worthy of note to inform my Lord that the only Constitution tendered in the cause of this suit was the 2005 Constitution without any objection by parties and nothing more, this can be verified from the Courts’ records as the original copy is still in Courts’ custody as part of Exhibits. My lord is enjoined to critically evaluate the reasons for this dispute, date of commencing this suit, go through the originating Processes, exhibits tendered, rulings held, and judgment of courts, my lord will appreciate our stands as well as not to allow contemnors to continue to embitter around the union towards aggravating the minds of law abiding union members. This is a call with utmost good faith from a lawyer and a friend of the bench.”

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