Monday, June 30, 2014 2:32 pm
Lagos – The National Industrial Court in Lagos on Monday fixed July 16, to hear a substantive suit against the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) over breach of rights.
Two plaintiffs, Messrs John Nwanosike and Jonathan Omare, had initiated the suit against the defendant through the chambers of Mr Festus Keyamo and Co., for alleged breach of their rights.
Joined as defendants in the suit are PENGASSAN, its Chevron Branch, Mr Esanubi Frank and Mr Ayanate Kio.
The plaintiffs, who are members of the Chevron branch of the Association, are seeking an order restraining the defendants from holding any delegates’ conference, pending the determination of the suit.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the court presided by Justice Kenneth Amadi, had on June 23 issued an interim order, restraining PENGASSAN from holding its conference, until the suit is determined.
The court had then adjourned the suit for hearing of the motion.
NAN reports that the suit, which was fixed on Monday for hearing of the motion, was further adjourned by the judge, following a claim of non service by the defence counsel, Mr Sola Iji.
Iji had told the court that he was entering an appearance in protest on the grounds that the defendants was not aware of the case against it, since they had not been served with any court process or orders made by the court.
He informed the court that he got wind of the interim orders made by the court from a different source and immediately rushed to court to obtain a certified true copy, only to be told that it had yet to be signed.
In a swift reaction, counsel to the claimants, Mr Uche Muoneke, informed the court that the presence of the defence counsel in court was on its own a clear contradiction of his submission.
Muoneke explained that shortly after the court had issued the interim orders restraining the conference, the baliff of the court alongside the claimant, had proceeded to serve the orders on the defendants.
He said that the defendants being fully aware of the position, tactically refused service by employing the services of dogs and the police to ward off the bailiff and claimant from their premises.
He told the court that the defendants still went ahead to hold its delegates conference on June 25, after ensuring that they had successfully evaded service of the orders, and in spite of clear knowledge of the order by the defence counsel.
According to Muoneke, the conduct of the defendants, represented the height of disregard for a sacrosanct order of the court, and urged the court to vacate all actions taken in contravention of its subsisting order.
Amadi at this point, ordered the claimant counsel to effect service of the originating processes on the defence counsel in the open court.
He then adjourned the case to July 16 for hearing.
The judge added that since the action was one by originating summons, he would hear both the motion on notice and the main suit together.
NAN reports that the plaintiffs had initially filed the suit before a Federal High Court in Lagos, but had to file a notice of discontinuance of the suit, following an objection raised by the defendants.
The defendants had challenged the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court to hear the suit, which they claim was labour related.
Consequently, the plaintiffs instituted a fresh suit before the NIC, by way of ex-parte application seeking similar reliefs.
In their affidavit, the plaintiffs averred that they were duly elected as delegates to the PENGASSAN conference, adding that their tenure was valid for a term of three years.
They averred that the defendants cancelled their names as delegates before the expiration of their tenure, thereby denying them the right to vote and be voted for at the conference.
The plaintiffs averred that in a bid to also prevent them from exercising their franchise, the second and third defendants set up a disciplinary committee to try them after they expressed fear that their rights were been trampled.
According to them, the panel declared them guilty even when there was no evidence against them as to the commission of any offence.
The plaintiffs, therefore, sought a declaration that the removal of their names as delegates to the Zonal conference and National Conference was unconstitutional.
They also sought an order, mandating the defendants to include their names as delegates and an order of perpetual injunction, restraining them from holding the conference until the illegality occasioned by their removal was redressed.