From Fred Itua, Abuja
The national leadership of the Road Transport Employers’ Association of Nigeria (RTEAN) has made a passionate appeal to the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, to reopen its Lagos office, following the crisis in two out of the over 320 chapels of the association.
Sanwo-Olu had reportedly sealed the state office, suspended the entire Lagos state branch of RTEAN and appointed a 35-member caretaker committee to run the affairs of the branch, shortly after the isolated incidents in two chapels.
Speaking with reporters on Saturday in Abuja, Deputy National President of the association, Amb. Abubakar Muhammed Bishara said the fracas was consequent upon a disagreement between members of the two chapels over the fact that the National President of the Road Transport Employers’ Association of Nigeria (RTEAN) doubles as the chairman of the Lagos state branch of the association.
RTEAN said that was quite unfortunate since the governor took that decision without reference to the national body of the association.
Bishara stated: “To put the matter in its proper perspective, the Road Transport Employers’ Association of Nigeria (RTEAN) is a trade union registered under the Trade Unions Act. Cap T 14 Laws of the Federation 2004, a federal enactment.
“The association also has its constitution which is recognized and approved by the Registrar of Trade Unions under the Ministry of Labour and Employment. The operations of Trade Unions are entirely under the Trade Unions Act and the approved constitutions of the Trade Unions.
“None of the provisions of the Trade Unions Act confers or gives any power to any state governor to suspend the activities of any Trade Union nor empowers the governor of Lagos State or any other state to appoint a caretaker committee for a Trade Union as a branch of it. The action of the governor is therefore ultra-vires and unconstitutional.
“We wish to further inform the members of the press that the constitution of RTEAN, which has been tested before the National Industrial Court, has made elaborate provision for chairmen of branches of the Association to contest elections in the National body either as president or any other office and if elected, could also hold the two positions without hindrance by any law as the provision of the constitution of the association.
“Therefore, the argument that the National President of RTEAN cannot hold the position of Lagos state branch chairman is without any foundation, rather it is provided for in the RTEAN constitution. Since the entire fracas was based on the issue covered by the RTEAN constitution one expects that aggrieved members should have been advised by the governor to proceed to court to challenge the constitutional provision and not for the governor to delve into resolving constitutional issues embedded in the RTEAN constitution.
“It is not his responsibility. In any case, it is unfortunate that the very members who engineered and carried out the fracas are part of the people the governor appointed as members of the caretaker committee. It shows clearly that the governor took sides with those contesting the issue of the president of RTEAN doubling as the chairman of the Lagos branch of RTEAN.
“Furthermore, Lagos state has over 320 chapels. The fracas is alleged to have taken place in two of those chapels. The responsibility of the state government is the maintenance of law and order, and this can be done by directing the police to arrest the miscreants who were involved in the fracas in the two chapels of the union.
“We, therefore, appeal to the governor of Lagos State to rescind his decision to suspend the activities of the Lagos Branch and allow the National body of the RTEAN to look into the matter in line with its constitution.
“We have observed that the governor of Lagos State has gone a step further by drafting soldiers and other security agents to seal up the premises of the Lagos state branch of RTEAN when the fracas did not take place there. The said building is the property of the association and already the National Executive Council of the organization has taken steps to resolve the crisis.
“We equally appeal to the government to withdraw the security personnel from the office. RTEAN is one of the most peaceful organisations among all the trade unions in the country and believes in the rule of law.
“We therefore humbly request the pleasure of the Lagos State Government to withdraw the security agents used in sealing off the property of the association.”