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Regd. Trustees, N.A.C.H.P.N. v. M.H.W.U.N.

THE REGISTERED TRUSTEES OF NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF COMMUNITY HEALTH PRACTITIONERS OF NIGERIA & 2 OTHERS


V

MEDICAL AND HEALTH WORKERS UNION OF NIGERIA & OTHERS

SUPREME COURT OF NIGERIA

SYLVESTER UMARU ONU JSC (Presided)

DAHIRU MUSDAPHER JSC

ALOMA MARIAM MUKHTAR JSC ( Read the Lead Judgment )

IKECHI FRANCIS OGBUAGU JSC

PIUS OLAYIWOLA ADEREMI JSC

SC.201/2005

FRIDAY, 11TH JANUARY, 2008

APPEAL - Statute - Proper interpretation of by trial court - Attitude of appellate court to

CONSTITUTIONAL LAW - Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, section 12(1) thereof - ‘Shall have the force of law except to the extent’ therein - What conveys

COURT - Role of in disputes between parties

EVIDENCE - Affidavit evidence - Where unchallenged - Effect of INTERNATIONAL LAW - International treaty entered into by government of Nigeria - When becomes binding

JUDGMENT AND ORDERS - Order sought - Duty of applicant to prove he is entitled to

JUDICIAL PRECEDENT - Stare decisis - Age of judicial decision Whether case loses value therefor

PARTIES - Application by party to be joined in a suit - When may be granted

PARTIES - Joinder of parties - Conditions for

PARTIES - Necessary party - Who is

PLEADINGS - Inconsistencies in party’s pleadings - Impropriety of

STATUTE - Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, section 12(1) thereof - ‘Shall have the force of law except to the extent’ therein - What conveys

STATUTE - Issue of law - Party raising - Duty of to establish applicability of

TRADE UNION - Registration of trade union - Proper body therefor Two trade unions with same interest - Impossibility of

WORDS AND PHRASES - ‘Shall have the force of law except to the extent’ contained in section 12(1), Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 - Connotation of

Issues:

1.              Whether the learned Justices of the Court of Appeal were right in setting aside reliefs (i), (ii) and (v) granted in favour of the 1st appellant by the Federal High Court, Ilorin on the grounds that the 1st appellant did not prove its entitlement to same having regard to the alleged non-denial of paragraph 7 of the counter-affidavit of the 1st respondent which was clearly not so on record.

2.              Whether the learned Justices of the Court of Appeal correctly interpreted the provisions of sections 3 and 5 of the Trade Union Act, Cap. 437 vis-a-vis the provisions of section 40 of the 1999 Constitution and the decision of the Supreme Court in the case of Osawe v. Registrar of Trade Unions (1985) 1 NWLR (Pt. 4) 255, when the facts, circumstances and antecedent of the case were totally different from the facts of the present case.

3.              Whether the learned Justices of the Court of Appeal were not wrong in the view their lordships took that relief No. (iii) was not properly granted in favour of the 1st appellant by the Federal High Court, Ilorin on the grounds that the provisions of clauses 87  and 89 of the International Labour Organization Convention have no legal force in Nigeria having not been ratified by the National Assembly even though signed by Nigeria, when the decision of the Federal High Court, Ilorin to grant the relief was based on other valid grounds not considered by the Court of Appeal.

4.              Whether their lordships of the Court of Appeal were right to have endorsed the ruling of the Federal High Court, Ilorin that the 1st respondent was a proper party to the case when it granted its application for joinder, when in fact there was no relief claimed by the 1st appellant against the 1st respondent, there was no counter-claim by the 1st respondent and there was nothing in the case connecting it to the reliefs sought and granted by the Federal High Court, Ilorin in favour of the 1st appellant.

5.              Whether the ideals embodied in the ratified International Labour Organisation Convention, clauses 87 and 89 have not become incorporated into Nigerian jurisprudence by virtue of similar rights preserved under cognate provisions in municipal trade unions Acts and legislations as to make its provisions justiceable in Nigerian courts; and if not, whether recourse to the 1999 Constitution and the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, Cap. 10 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 1990, containing identical provisions preserves a litigant’s rights, so as to negate the Court of Appeal’s decision that the same have not been enacted into law and have no force of law in Nigeria.

Facts:

The 1st appellant alleged that the interests of its members were not safeguarded by any of the existing trade unions and therefore formed and registered an association with the Corporate Affairs Commission (C.A.C.) It further applied to the defendants for registration. The application was refused and it therefore prayed the Federal High Court in an application for judicial review for, inter alia, an order of certiorari to remove into the court for the purpose of being quashed, the decision of the defendants refusing to register the applicant and an order of mandamus compelling the defendants to register it.

The defendants raised a preliminary objection challenging the competence of the action on grounds that the procedure employed to commence the action was improper and the applicant lacked locus standi to institute the action. The Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria applied to be joined as an interested party and deposed to an affidavit that the applicant’s members’ interests were being looked after by the union, therefore the application by the applicant to be registered as a union was rightly turned down by the defendant. The trial court held that the applicant was entitled to the reliefs sought.

Aggrieved, the Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria appealed to the Court of Appeal. The applicant also appealed against the order of court in respect of joinder of the union in the suit. The Court of Appeal dismissed the applicant’s appeal and allowed the union’s appeal in part, holding that the applicant was not entitled to the reliefs granted by the trial court but the action was properly commenced. Aggrieved, the applicant appealed to the Supreme Court while the defendants also appealed.

In determining the appeals, the Supreme Court considered the following statutes:

Trade Unions Act, Cap. 437 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 1990, section 3(1) which provides:

“3(1) An application for the registration of a trade union shall be made to the registrar in the prescribed form and shall be signed:-

(a)           in the case of a trade union of workers, by at least fifty members of the union; and

(b)           in the case of a trade union of employers, by at least two members of the union.”

Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, section 40 which provides:

“40. Every person shall be entitled to assemble freely and associate with other persons, and in particular he may form or belong to any political party, trade union or any other association for the protection of his interests.

Provided that the provisions of this section shall not

derogate from the powers conferred by this Constitution on the Independent National Electoral Commission with respect to political parties to which that commission does not accord recognition.”

Electoral Act, 2001, section 79(1) and (2)(c) which provides:

“79(1)Membership of a political party shall be open to every citizen irrespective of his place of origin, circumstance of birth, sex, religion or ethnic grouping.

(2) Subject to subsection (1) of this section, a person shall not be eligible to be registered as a member of a political party if he -

(c) is a member of the Armed Forces of the Federation, the Nigeria Police, security agencies or paramilitary organ of the government.”

African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, Cap. 10 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 1990, article 10  which provides :

“1. Every individual shall have right to free association provided that he abides by the law.

2. Subject to the obligation of solidarity provided for in article 29, no one may be compelled to join an association.”

Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, section 12 which provides:

“12(1)No treaty between the Federation and any other country shall have the force of law except to the extent to which any such treaty has been enacted into law by the National

Assembly.”

Federal High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules, 2000, Order 12, rules 3 and 5 which provide:

“3 All persons may be joined as defendants against whom the right to any relief is alleged to exist, whether jointly, severally or in the alternative and judgment may be given against such one or more of the defendants as may be found to be liable according to their respective liabilities without any amendment.”

5 If it appears to the court, at or before the hearing of a suit, that all persons who may be entitled to or who claim a share or interest in the subject matter of the suit, or who may be likely to be affected by the result, have not been made parties, the court may adjourn the hearing of the suit to a future day, to be fixed by the court and direct that such persons shall be

made either plaintiffs and defendants in the suit, as the case may be.”