By Henry Ojelu
Kaduna — National Industrial Court, NIC, sitting in Kaduna has dismissed a preliminary objection filed by Kaduna State Government seeking to stop the suit instituted by the Nigeria Union of Local Government Employee, NULGE over plan to declare some of its members in the state redundant.
NULGE had dragged the state government before the court over an Executive Order, Kaduna State Local Government Council (Restructuring and staffing Order) enacted by Governor Nasir el-Rufai in 217 to limit the number of workers local government in the state can employ.
The union claimed that with the governor's executive order, over 4,410 of its members employed by the local governments in the state are set to be declared redundant. The union prayed the court to declare the order illegal and unconstitutional on the ground that el-Rufai being a civilian governor lacks the legislative power to make laws and is limited to execute laws made by the state House of Assembly.
Joined in the suit as co-defendants are; Speaker, Kaduna State House of Assembly, Attorney-General and Commissioner of Justice, Commissioners for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Local Government Service Commission and Head of Service, Kaduna State.
The state governor and other defendants in their preliminary objections however asked the court to dismiss the suit on the ground that the National Industrial Court lacks jurisdiction to adjudicate on matters relating to determination of any question as to the interpretation of any provision of the constitution.
The defendants also claimed that NULGE lacked the locus to institute the suit on behalf of local government employees in the state.
Ruling on the preliminary objection, Justice S.O Adeniyi stated that the objection of the defendants lack merit noting that NIC like every other court in Nigeria has the constitution powers to interpret the law with regards to subject matters under its jurisdiction.
Justice Adeniyi said, "The access to court is a constitutional right. It cannot be taken away by implication or speculation by the courts or even by the parties.
"This being the situation, the Court cannot rightly construe that the claimant suit is not in any way labour related as the learned counsel for the 2nd Defendant assumed. I so hold.
On whether NULGE had the locus to institute the matter, the judge said: "Without having to go far, I am of the view that the Learned counsel for the 1st, 3rd to6th Defendants erroneously submitted that a trade union has no locus standi to sue on behalf of its members because there is no privity of contract between the Claimant and the Defendants.
"This Court has over time recognized the right of unions to sue on behalf of their members. The Claimant's capacity to ventilate the instant suit before this Court is as crystal clearly been given legal backing by the Appellate Court in the most recent case of 835 Vs NUT supra.
" In the final analysis, my over all decision is that the concerted objections hurled on the Claimant's suit by the Defendants, is devoid of merit. The objections shall be and is hereby accordingly overruled and dismissed.
"Consequently, the Claimant's suit is hereby handed a clean bill of competence to be determined by this Court on its merits."