A leadership crisis in the National Union of Foods, Beverages and Tobacco Employees (NUFBTE) split the union asunder after its president Lateef Oyelekan extended his tenure for another two years.
He has already held the office for 12 years, flouting a court injunction.
Members of the union in a suit NICN/LA/189/2020 dragged Oyelekan and 18 others before the National Industrial Court, seeking an injunction to restrain him from holding emergency delegates conference and from ratifying resolutions passed by the National Executive Council meeting of the union of February 4, 2019.
On 19 August, 2020, the National Industrial Court, Lagos Judicial Division gave an order of interlocutory injunction stopping the union from conducting the emergency delegates conference until a substantive suit bothering on the violation of the union’s constitution was resolved.
Granting the prayers for an interim injunction to the applicants, Justice . I. J. Essien said: “In the light of the above, the two prayers sought in the motion papers are granted as follows: An order of interlocutory injunction is hereby granted restraining the 1st to 18th Defendants/Respondents and all other officers of the 18th Defendants from conducting or holding the planned Emergency Delegates Conference now schedule for 21th August,2020, the agenda being to ratify the illegal and unconstitutional decision by the 1st to 17th Defendants to postpone the period for conduct of elections into all elective offices contrary to the provisions of the Constitution of the 18th Defendant, pending the hearing and determination of this suit.
“An order of interlocutory injunction is hereby granted restraining the 1st to 18th Defendants from ratifying or giving effect to the purported resolution passed at the National Executive Council meeting of the 18th Defendant on the 4 th day February, 2019… extending and or postponing the period for conduct of Elections into various elective positions/all structures of the 18th 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 provided and contrary to the Constitution of the Union, pending the hearing and determination of this suit.”
The National Signing Trustee of NUFBTE, Peter Onoja, who emerged as the President of a faction and the General Secretary, Comrade Bamidele Busari, in a press conference in Abuja on Monday, called on the Federal Government and well-meaning Nigerians to help the Food Union to end illegality in the union.
Onaja said: “Now we have two factions in the house, I am the President of one of the factions. I am the former National Signing Trustee of the union. Our President has served four years as deputy president, 12 years as president, making a total of 16 years.”
“Our constitution has no tenure limit, you can contest as many times, but the constitution makes it clear that every four years, you must have elections. This year is our conference year and the president wanted to do an emergency delegates conference and the subject matter is only one agenda, tenure elongation. That he wants to elongate his tenure for two years,” he said.
Onaja expressed shock as on the night of 20 August, they went ahead to hold “a kangaroo emergency conference and came out in the morning to write a letter that some of us are suspended.”
In his reaction, the acting General Secretary under Lateef Oyenekan faction said the union leadership was not properly served the court injunction.
He said, “Our union is still intact; it is only that some people were trying to portray it so. Our union is not in crisis. Our union is guided by our constitution and we have been following the dictate of that constitution meticulously without division.”
While clearing the air on tenure elongation controversy, he said, “Yes, it is not clearly stated in our constitution that there can be extension like that, fine, but there is no constitution in the world that is completely perfect. That is why, when there was a situation and exigences, like it happened in Nigeria during President Yar’ Adua crisis, the doctrine of necessity was evoked.”