Benjamin Babine, Abuja
The leadership of the National Union of Foods, Beverages and Tobacco Employees (NUFBTE) are in crisis as its National President, Comrade Lateef Oyelekan, has against a court injunction, extended his tenure for another two years; after 12 years in office.
The leadership of the union was restrained by a court injunction from extending the tenure of the president and his executive members when thirty members of the union dragged the president and 18 others before the National Industrial Court. Despite that, the President has gone ahead to organize an emergence delegate conference and has extended his tenure for another two years.
This has sparked an outrage as the National Signing Trustee of NUFBTE, Comrade Peter Onoja, in a press conference on Monday in Abuja, lamented the situation and called on the Federal Government and well-meaning Nigerians to help the Food Union to end what he called “illegality” in the union.
Comrade Onaja, who emerged as the President of this faction, 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.”
He noted that the union’s constitution has no tenure limit but said that the constitution emphasised that there must be elections every four years to choose leadership.
“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.
“So, some of us feel bad that if the constitution says every four years you must hold election, even if you want to contest, hold election, if you win everybody will support you legitimately. But he refused; so we approached the National Industrial Court and on 19 August the National Industrial Court give interlocutory injunction that no emergency conference should hold until the determination of the case,” Onaja said.
He said 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.” He pointed out that over 25 branches of the union have written to the general secretary and passed vote of no confidence on the leadership, saying that his tenure has since expired in January this year.
According to him, they have met with security agencies, and they have written several letters to the Minister of Labour and Employment, Sen. Chris Ngige.
He added: “we are begging Nigerians to come to our aid in Food Union because the place has become a one-man business and he does things without recourse to constitution.”
In reaction, the acting General Secretary of the union under the Oyelekan faction said the union leadership was not properly served the court injunction, saying. He said: “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.
“Our president is at the end of his third tenure. When he was elected, our union was nowhere, no progress, but with commitment and dedication, he made sure he diversified our union in terms of investments. Established so many investments like hotels and water factories.”
On the issue of tenure elongation, 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.”
He stated that the tenure extension passed through “due process” saying it passed through the National Executive Council, National Administrative Council and the emergency delegates conference.