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Court cautions NLC members over leadership crisis

The National Industrial Court sitting in Owerri has ordered the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) to maintain the status quo ante over the current leadership crisis rocking the Abia chapter. According to the court’s ruling made available to newsmen in Umuahia on Wednesday, the presiding judge, Justice I.S. Galadima, ordered that Uchenna Obigwe remain in office as the state NLC chairman. Galadima gave the order on Wednesday, October 13, saying that Obigwe should continue in office “until the final determination of the suit. “Any disobedience of this order shall amount to contempt,” the judge further ruled.

He said the court arrived at its decision “upon listening and considering the arguments by the respective counsel” for the claimant (Obigwe) and the respondents. The respondents included NLC, its National President and General Secretary, Ayuba Wabba and Emmanuel Ugboaja, respectively. A copy of the ruling indicated that U.O. Ukairo appeared for Obigwe, while P.S. Ndiokwere, holding brief for Folabi Kuti, appeared for the respondents. The court had earlier vacated its interim injunction of March 10, restraining the national leadership of NLC from interfering in the leadership structure of Abia NLC.

The judge said the matter was placed on the court’s accelerated list and adjourned to November 11 “for crossexamination and possibly defence.” Meanwhile, in a statement issued to newsmen, Obigwe warned those “who may wish to flout the court order in any guise to be mindful of the implications.” He advised those allegedly instigating the leadership crisis in Abia NLC “to give peace a chance” for industrial peace to reign. The National Executive Committee (NEC) of NLC, at its meeting on February 17, removed Obigwe from office and replaced him with a certain Eze Idima.

NEC alleged that Obigwe was having “undue romance” with Abia government and keeping two jobs in the state civil service. But Obigwe denied the allegations and described government and labour as “inseparable partners in progress.” He told newsmen that the NLC constitution did not give NEC the power to appoint state chairmen, adding that positions in the congress are filled by election.

“For this reason, the president lacked the power to remove me. Even if I committed any offence as they alleged, I should be given a fair hearing. “He cannot replace me with a man I defeated in the 2015 and 2019 chairmanship elections, yet I have three vice chairmen. “The era of impunity and intimidation is gone,” Obigwe said, adding that “trade unionism is about democracy, not dictatorship.” He alleged that his purported removal was orchestrated by chieftains of NLC, who allegedly conspired and sold the four plots of land allocated to the union by Orji Kalu’s administration. “They started fighting to remove me after I recovered the land, which they sold for N20 million and are now made to refund the money to the buyer,” Obigwe said.

 

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