Oil & Gas Sector Unions Imperative To The Growth Of Economy – Kayode Ajulo

Oil & Gas Sector Unions Imperative To The Growth Of Economy – Kayode Ajulo
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Dr Kayode Ajulo, legal luminary, expert in Corporate and Labour Law, rights activist, in this interview with some senior correspondents bares his mind on the IPMAN national leadership tussle and other topical issues from the position of the law.
Excerpts:
With the recent Supreme Court ruling, would you say IPMAN can no longer operate in factions? 
As a stakeholder in the organised labour movement in Nigeria and a seasoned legal practitioner, I must  foremost express my heartfelt concern over the factionalisation of labour unionism and her allied associations in Nigeria, especially that of the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, IPMAN.

It is indeed an unfortunate development.
For a fact, acrimonious divisions often incapacitate a union from its fundamental and primary objective of representing the interest of Nigerian workers. Be that as it may, it is encouraging that our nation is now taking significant steps towards plugging constitutional lacunae that have been militating against the welfare, safety and security of her teeming workers.
In my almost 20 years of legal practice and about 30 years of keen interest and experience in Unionism, I have been privileged to handle a number of cases that bother on union matters. Standing on this vantage point, I salute the apex court in our land, the Supreme Court of Nigeria for determining and resolving with finality the issue of factions and consequential matters relating to the IMPAN leadership and indeed membership.
The IPMAN leadership must also be commended for good handling of the crisis and attendant factionalisation which has been laid to rest in the above case. This is a significant development and provides an unassailable precedent in way that no individual or institution can henceforth undermine this new order, as this has become a solid precedent for not only IPAMN which is now on the right pedestal for all other associations to emulate.

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What is the exact position of the Supreme Court?
The Supreme Court of Nigeria did uphold Engr. Sanusi Abdu Fari as the new National President of the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, IPMAN, following the judgment delivered by five Justices of the Supreme Court per curiam, My Lords, Datiijo Muhammad, Kumai Bayang Aka’ahs, Kudirat Kekere-Ekun, Chima Centus Nweze, Ejembi Eko in Suit No: SC/15/2018 which affirmed the judgment delivered by the Federal High Court delivered in Port Harcourt on the 20th of March, 2014.
The Supreme Court decision, lucid, unambiguous and with full clarity does not, as a matter of fact, and in any way require further judicial interpretation unless there’s a patent criminal departure from the  spirit of the decision. I have taken time to go through the 59-page Ruling of the Justices of the Supreme Court led by Justice Datiijo which upheld the judgment of the Federal High Court, in Port Harcourt that Chief Obasi Lawson became the National President of IPMAN on March 20, 2014 and by the 1997 Constitution of IPMAN, his tenure expired in March, 2017. Thus, the Terms of Settlement later filed at the Court of Appeal, Port Harcourt which seeks to enthrone the 2009 Constitution with tenure of five years should be set aside.

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Do you think there is the need for further clarification on the ruling?
I have said it before in the course of this interview, the Supreme Court has perfectly served a well nuanced judgment which validates Alhaji Fari as the National President of the Association. This position remains sacrosanct and cannot be controverted. The issues regarding faction or no faction do not exist; that I can assure you. As it is however, where the apparatus of government is being used to perpetuate a deviation from the spirit and the letter of the Supreme Court decision, it is not only allowed, it is mandatory that the instrumentality of the Court is used to rein in offending parties.
Based on the judgment, Comrade Fari, who served as former Deputy President to Chief Obasi Lawson, was sworn in as the new IPMAN National President in line with the Supreme Court judgment that upheld the 1997 constitution of IPMAN Association. I am aware that the 1997 Constitution has a process of transition, which is simply transition by succession. The Deputy National President automatically takes over from the President at the expiration of the tenure. By interpretation, it means that Chief Obasi’s deputy takes over, which is in line with the dictates of the IPMAN constitution as upheld by the Supreme Court.
Nobody was declared the president expressly and the constitution, 1997,is clear on transition. The affirmation of the Court implies that there was only one President and that his tenure has elapsed. By the dictates of the same constitution, which is the foundation, the process of law takes its course. Without contradiction, it will be contemptuous for anyone to misinterpret the unambiguous judgment of the Supreme Court in this IPMAN case, and for clarity, the Supreme Court did not either directly or by any necessary implication declare Elder Chinedu Okoronkwo as the National President of IPMAN. The Apex Court abundantly recognises the tenure of Chief Obasi Lawson as the immediate-past National President of IPMAN and has also upheld the 1997 Constitution with tenure of office of three years.
By Article IV of the 1997 Constitution, the Deputy National President who was Engr. Abdu Fari automatically takes over as the National President of IPMAN. That is the position of the Supreme Court judgment as well as its interpretation which cannot be controverted or manipulated under any guise.

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What legal advice can you offer on this matter?
This matter is very simple, you see, no one can set aside the ruling of the Supreme Court, neither can anyone, under any guise, attribute alternative interpretations to it. For anyone to circumvent or contend this judgment by way of seeking self-help, lies, propaganda, innuendos etc, will amount to travesty of justice, to say the least.
My advice, however, is that the Court should not hesitate to apply doctrine of contempt with severe legal sanctions on any individual or group of individuals who, for whatever reason, chooses to disobey and disregard the graphic ruling. Opposing or defying the authority, justice and dignity of the Court, especially the Supreme Court or any Court for that matter is a serious offence and must be judiciously addressed.
Enough is enough; IPMAN must advance on its frontiers. I can assure you that those who might have been profiting from the crisis have already met their waterloo. I use this opportunity to call on those at the Presidency not to condone illegalities or exercise bias; meanwhile, the Buhari that I know has tremendous respect for the rule of law and very circumspect, he will definitely call them to order to engender industrial harmony.
As far as I know, the stability and smooth running of IPMAN, NUPENG, PENGASSAN and other relevant Unions in the oil and gas sector is imperative to the growth and prosperity of our national economy, therefore, no responsible government will take these critical stakeholders for granted.

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