Fred Ezeh, Abuja
Dr. Kayode Ajulo, is a lawyer and right activist. He is good in corporate and labour laws. He speaks on the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) national leadership tussle and other topical themes from the position of the law.
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 lawyer, I must first and foremost express my heartfelt concern over the factionalisation of labour unionism and allied associations in Nigeria, especially that of Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN). It’s 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 lacuna that has been militating against the welfare, safety and security of its teeming workers. In my 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 erstwhile crisis and attendant factionalisation which has been laid to rest in the above case. This is a significant development and it provides an unassailable precedent, in 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, but for others who may be faced with similar challenge in the future.
What is the exact position of Supreme Court as regards the authentic leadership of IPMAN?
The Supreme Court upheld the emergence of Sanusi Abdu Fari as the new IPMAN president following the judgment delivered by five Justices of the Supreme Court, which affirmed the judgment delivered by the Port Harcourt division of the Federal High Court, on the 20th 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 20th March, 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 enthroned the 2009 Constitution with tenure of five years, should be set aside.
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 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. However, President Muhammadu Buhari that I know has tremendous respect for the rule of law. I am very confident that 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.