By Moses Nosike
The National Union of Food, Beverages and Tobacco Employees, NUFBTE, faction led by Onoja Peter, has given insight into the root of the leadership crisis rocking the union, claiming that “our members have continued to groan in the pains and wallow in disappointment in the last 12 years.”
But the other faction led by Lateef Oyelekan, is insisting that there is no faction and that the union is intact.
Speaking through the Acting General Secretary, Mike Olanrewaju, the faction said the special Delegate Conference which gave the incumbent President, Lateef Oyelekan two years extension was constitutional and was held under the supervision of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, President, Ayuba Wabba.
According to him, the union at no time was factionalised on the issue of tenure elongation as all the now aggrieved members were in the National Executive Meeting, NEC, in Abuja and Lagos where the decision was unanimously taken.
On the court injunction as alleged by the leadership of aggrieved members, who equally was the former Signing Trustee of the union, Peter Onoja, the union expressed that there was no time that the union was served with court injunction.
However, at a briefing in Lagos, Onoja contended that the root cause of the crisis was illegal tenure elongation by the factional President of the union, Lateef Idowu Oyelekan, after being in the saddle for over 12 years, by allegedly disobeying a court order to appropriate two more years to remain the president of the union.
According to him, some aggrieved members including himself had dragged the Oyelekan led-leadership before the National Industrial Court sitting in Lagos, “over alleged plans to hold an emergency delegates’ conference to elongate their tenure for two years.
We also asked the court to nullify a purported resolution passed at the National Executive Council meeting of union held on February 20, 2019 in Abuja postponing the period for conduct of elections into various elective positions of union. In the ruling of August 19, on the exparte motion we filed on August 10, Justice I.J Essien, granted an interluctory injunction restraining the union from holding the planned emergency delegates conference.
“In his ruling, Justice Essien said, “I have already held that this court has the Jurisdiction to hear and determine this suit since it bothers on the interpretation and application of the constitution of the trade union.
I have also noted that the notice of the meeting dated July 6, 2020 calling for the emergency National Delegates Conference does not comply with Rule 7(1) of the 18th defendant constitution. Also there is a breach of Rule 7 (iii) which requires the agenda for the meeting to be served two weeks before the meeting.
“This is the appropriate case in which the defendants/respondents ought to be restrained until the determination or this suit. It is the position of this court that not restraining the defendants/respondents would foist on this court a fait accomplish when the court has to determine the issue of the interpretation and application of the constitution of the 18th defendant which is the subject matter of the originating summons. In the light of the above the two prayers sought by motion papers are granted.
“This was given on Wednesday, August 19, in the presence of their lawyers, but on Thursday night, starting from 12 am, they held a purported special delegates conference extending their tenure in defiance to the court other.
Our members and staff all over the nation have continued to groan in pains and wallow in disappointment for the past 12 years. We have tried everything within our capacity to see if we could address these issues at our level without allowing it stray into public domain, but Lateef Oyelekan, has been recalcitrant, adamant and unrepentant.
“His tenure has expired since January 11, 2020, because he was voted into power on January 11, 2008, and had uninterruptedly been in office for more than 12 years. During this time, no payment of statutory rebate to organs of the union in the state councils and branches.
There has been no accountability and purposeful leadership. He has rendered the office of the General Secretary who is the Chief Executive of the union redundant and has been crushing any form of opposing voice across all levels.
“He has continued to violate the union’s constitution, muzzle to death the staff cooperative society and has been obtaining bank loans in hundreds of millions of naira for purpose of projects funding, while the staff exit benefits are not paid .
There has been no good salary structure and non-implementation of National Joint Industrial Council, NJIC, for staff of NUFBTE for the past 12 years. The list is endless, and we have decided to step in to save the union from looming collapse.”