Food Union Crisis: Aggrieved Members Drag President, Others To Court Over Tenure Elongation

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Comrade Oyelekan, Food Union President.

By John Ameh

THE internal crisis rocking the National Union of Food, Beverage and Tobacco Employees (NUFBTE) has entered a new chapter as aggrieved members of the union have opted for litigation by dragging to court the President of the union, Comrade Lateef Idowu Oyelekan and all elected members of the union over allegations of tenure elongation and sundry infractions against the constitution of the union.

In the suit pending before Justice Essien of the National Industrial Court, Lagos Division, the plaintiffs, Comrade Abiodun Philip and 29 others, accused the defendants, Comrade Oyelekan, who is the National President of NUFBTE and 17 other national officers of the union of perpetuating themselves in office despite the expiration of their constitutionally allowed two terms.

National Record had exclusively reported on June 18, 2020 that while efforts by the Nigeria Labour Congress and other stakeholders were on to mediate in the crisis that had marred the affairs of the Food Union since January this year, it was clear that the crisis was escalating as it gathered from reliable sources that aggrieved members were mulling the option of litigation.  

In the court processes sighted by our correspondent, the plaintiffs (claimants) are accusing the Comrade Oyelekan-led national executive of the union of attempts to illegally amend the union’s constitution to enable them to maintain their grip on power.

In an affidavit supporting the originating summons, which was sworn to by Olawuwo Abiodun, a financial member of the union; the aggrieved members asserted that in accordance with the union’s constitution, election of national officers are done at and by the union’s quadrennial delegates conference every four years.

In the affidavit, Abiodun asserted that “By the Union’s Constitution, elections into elective positions of Principal National Offices are done at and by the “National Quadrennial Delegates Conference” of the Union which is constitutionally scheduled to hold in November of every four years. That the last National Quadrennial Delegates Conference of the Union during which elections that produced the current National Officers was held on the 4th day of December, 2016. That by the provisions of the Union’s constitution, the tenure of office of the current National Officers will expire in November, 2020.

“By the Union’s Constitution, National Quadrennial Delegates Conference is required to hold every Four (4) years, and in this case, on or before the end of November, 2020 to enable the election of new National Officers to be conducted.

“It is the said National Quadrennial Delegates Conference and elections for 2020 that the Principal National officers of the Defendant who pilots and run the affairs of the Defendant have decided to avoid as they are afraid of losing elections, because they no longer enjoy the support of the members of the Union who are totally dissatisfied with their style of leadership and the way and manner they have been managing and conducting the affairs of the Union.

The members of the Union received purportedly passed resolutions at the National Executive Council meeting of the Defendant on the 4th day of February 2019, as contained in the document dated 20th February, 2019 with REF NO. NUF/NHS/GS/VOL. 1/08, titled “OUTCOME OF 2019 NATIONAL EXECUTIVE COUNCIL (NEC) MEETING OF NUFBTE IN ABUJA” extending and/or postponing the period for conduct of Elections into various elective positions/all structures of the Defendant Union (including the National elective positions of the principal national officers) and extending and/or elongating the tenure of office of elected officers of the Union by a period of two years beyond the tenure/period Constitutionally provided and contrary to Rules 6(iii), 7(i) & (vi), 8(xx), 10(ii) & (v), 11(xi), 12(i), 13 (ii), 14 (f)&(g) of the Constitution of the Union and Appendix II- 4 and  13 to the Constitution of the Union. Copy of the document dated 20th February, 2019 with REF NO. NUF/NHS/GS/VOL. 1/08, titled “OUTCOME OF 2019 NATIONAL EXECUTIVE COUNCIL (NEC) MEETING OF NUFBTE IN ABUJA” is hereby attached and marked Exhibit B.”

“That the Claimants and other members of the Union quickly raised objections to the unconstitutional actions, steps, decisions and/or resolutions purportedly passed by the National Executive Council (NEC) at its meeting held on the 4th February 2019 contained in the document dated 20th February, 2019 with REF NO. NUF/NHS/GS/VOL. 1/08, titled “OUTCOME OF 2019 NATIONAL EXECUTIVE COUNCIL (NEC) MEETING OF NUFBTE IN ABUJA” as regards the unconstitutional extension and/or postponement of period for conduct of elections into elective positions of the union and extension and/or elongation of the term of office or tenure of office of the current elected officers of the Union (including those occupy by the elected Principal National Officers) for a period of two years beyond the term/period Constitutionally provided/allowed, same being actions, steps and decisions which “obstructs the free and fair conduct of elections as and when they fall due” as provided by APPENDIX 4 and 13 to the Constitution of the Union.”

Questions for Determination By the Court

While praying the court for a resolution of the dispute, the aggrieved union members asked the court to determine: Whether by virtue of Rules 6(iii), 7(i) & (vi), 8(xx), 10(ii) & (v), 11(xi), 12(i), 13 (ii), 14 (f) & (g), Appendix II 4 and 13 to the Constitution of National Union of Food, Beverage and Tobacco Employees, a member who has been elected into an elective position/office in the Union at any two previous elections is qualified for election into the same elective position/office for another term.

Whether by virtue of Rules 6(iii), 7(i) & (vi), 8(xx), 10(ii) & (v), 11(xi), 12(i), 13 (ii), 14 (f) & (g), Appendix II 4 and 13 of the Constitution of National Union of Food, Beverage and Tobacco Employees, the National Executive Council of the Defendant has the Constitutional power to extend and/or postpone period for conduct of elections into elective positions/offices of the Defendant for a period of (2) two years.

“Whether by virtue of Rules 6(iii), 7(i) & (vi), 8(xx), 10(ii) & (v), 11(xi), 12(i), 13 (ii), 14 (f)&(g), Appendix II 4 & 13 of the Constitution of National Union of Food, Beverage and Tobacco Employees, the National Executive Council of the Defendant or any officer(s) of the Defendant have the power to extend and/or elongate the tenure of office of elected officers of the union for a period of (2) two years beyond the period specified in Rules 10(ii) & (v), 11(xi), 12(i), 13 (ii) of the Constitution of the Union.

“Whether by interpretation of rules 7(vi), (viii) and Rule 13(ii) and Appendix II 13 of the Constitution of National Union of Food, Beverage and Tobacco Employees, elections into all elective National Offices shall be conducted at the National Quadrennial Delegates Conference to be held in the month of November every four year.

Whether the actions/steps, decisions and resolutions purportedly passed by the National Executive Council of the Defendant during the NEC Meeting of 4th February 2019 as regards the unconstitutional extension and/or postponement of period for conduct of elections into the elective positions of the union and extension and/or elongation of tenure of office of elected officers of the union for a period of two years beyond the period provided in Rules 10(ii) & (v), 11(xi), 12(i), 13 (ii) of the Constitution of the Union are all not actions/steps which obstruct the free and fair conduct of elections as and when they fall due – as provided by Appendix 4 and 13 to the Union’s Constitution and therefore null and void.”

Consequently, the aggrieved union members implored the court to declare that by interpretation and true intention of Rules 6(iii), 7(i) & (vi), 8(xx), 10(ii) & (v), 11(xi), 12(i), 13 (ii), 14 (f) & (g), Appendix II 4 &  13 and other provisions of the Constitution of National Union of Food Beverage and Tobacco Employees, a member who has occupied an elective office of the Union as an elected officer for two terms shall not be qualified for election into the same office for another term.

The aggrieved members, among others, prayed for: “A declaration that by interpretation of rules 7(vi), (viii) and Rule 13(ii) and Appendix II 13 of the Constitution of National Union of Food, Beverage and Tobacco Employees, elections into all elective National Offices shall be conducted at the National Quadrennial Delegates Conference to be held in the month of November every four year. 

“A declaration that by the interpretation of rules 7(vi), (viii) and Rule 13(ii) of the Constitution of the National Union of Food, Beverage and Tobacco Employees, the next National Quadrennial Delegates Conference shall hold in November 2020; the last National Quadrennial Delegate Conference having held in 2016.

“A declaration that the purported decision/resolution of the National Executive Council of the Defendant, passed on the 4th day of February 2019, as contained in the document dated 20th February, 2019 with REF NO. NUF/NHS/GS/VOL. 1/08, titled “OUTCOME OF 2019 NATIONAL EXECUTIVE COUNCIL (NEC) MEETING OF NUFBTE IN ABUJA” extending and/or postponing the period for conduct of Elections into various elective positions/all structures of the Defendant (including the National elective positions of all elected national officers of the Defendant) and extending and/or elongating the tenure of office of elected officers of the Union by a period of two years beyond the tenure/period Constitutionally allowed, is contrary to Rules 6(iii), 7(i) & (vi), 8(xx), 10(ii) & (v), 11(xi), 12(i), 13 (ii), 14 (f)&(g), and APPENDIX II 4 and  13 of the Constitution of National Union of Food, Beverage and Tobacco Employees (the Union) and therefore null and void.

“A declaration that by the provisions of Rules 6(iii), 7(i) & (vi), 8(xx), 10(ii)&(v), 11(xi), 12(i), 13 (ii), 14 (f)&(g), and APPENDIX II 4 and 13 to the Constitution of National Union of Food, Beverage and Tobacco Employees, the National Executive Council of the Defendant has no Constitutional power to extend and/or elongate the tenure or term of office of elected officers of the Union (including the National elective positions of all elected national officers of the Defendant) beyond the tenure/period/term Constitutionally provided under the Constitution National Union of Food, Beverage and Tobacco Employees.

 

“A declaration that the actions and steps, decisions and/or resolutions purportedly passed by the National Executive Council (NEC) of the Defendant during the NEC Meeting of 4th February 2019 as contained in the document dated 20th February, 2019 with REF NO. NUF/NHS/GS/VOL. 1/08, titled “OUTCOME OF 2019 NATIONAL EXECUTIVE COUNCIL (NEC) MEETING OF NUFBTE IN ABUJA” as regards the unconstitutional extension and/or postponement of period for conduct of elections into elective positions of the union and extension and/or elongation of the term of office or tenure of office of the current elected officers of the Union for a period of two years beyond the period Constitutionally provided/allowed, are all actions, steps and decisions which “obstructs the free and fair conduct of elections as and when they fall due” as provided by Appendix 4 and 13 to the Constitution of National Union of Food, Beverage and Tobacco Employees, and therefore null and void.”

No date has been fixed for the hearing of the case.

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