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Court dismisses DISCOs trespass suit against NGO, NLC, for lack of proof

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The National Industrial Court, on Wednesday, dismissed a suit filed by the Ikeja Electricity Distribution Company Limited and New Electricity Distribution Company Limited against Incorporated trustees of Citizen Access to Electricity Initiative, for lack of proof.

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Also joined as co-defendants are Abdulsalam Fashola for himself and as national coordinator of the first defendant, Segun Esan, for himself and as General Secretary of Nigerian Union of Railway Workers and the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC).

Justice Osat Obaseki-Osaghae delivering judgment via virtual proceedings held that the first defendant was not a trade union, but rather a nongovernmental organisation and that the first, second and third defendants not being members of a trade union were not subject to the provisions of the Trade Union Act.

On whether or not there was a trade dispute at any particular time between the parties, she held that the claimants had averred that the second defendant posted a letter signed by him on April 16, 2016, of a planned action of picketing the premises of the claimants on April 18, 2016, over outrageous billing and unlawful labour practice.
Obaseki-Osaghae further ruled that from the evidence before the court, the first to third defendants did not involve the fourth defendant (NLC).

” It is my view, in the circumstance cannot be said that the first, second and third defendants were not part if the protest.

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” I find from the totality of the evidence adduced that the NLC did not organize their protest and was not part of it”, she added.

In addition, the judge said that the presence of NLC’s flag from photographs during the protest and picketing did not amount to its involvement.

The judge in addition said that from evidence, the gate to the claimants’ premises was locked, the protesters were outside the gate with the presence of the Nigerian Police personnel seen.

” I find that there was no trespass nor were employees of the claimant’s prevented from carrying out their duties.
” I hold that the first, second and third defendants in their constituted rights carried out a peaceful protest with the presence of Nigerian Police personnel”.

The judge concluded by saying that the three declaratory reliefs sought by the defendants failed.

She also said the fourth relief which was a perpetual restraining order against the defendants or their agents was refused.

The fifth relief which was for specific damages was equally refused as she ruled that the claimants failed to prove that the protesters entered into their premises during the protest.

As for the relief of the cost of the suit, she said it was illegal for a litigant to push the cost of his legal burden on another litigant.

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The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports the claimants filed the suit against the defendants on April 20, 2016, seeking for a declaration that the defendants did not follow due procedures before embarking on protest, picket, lock up and prevented access at its premises at Obafemi Awolowo, Alausa, Ikeja, Lagos on April 18, 2016.

The claimants also sought for a declaration that the defendants did not have any right to enter its premises and that the picketing and disruption was a wrongful interference.

They, therefore, sought for an order of the court for a perpetual restraining injunction against the defendants, their agents or associates.

In addition, the claimants had prayed for an order of the court directing the defendants to pay the sum of N20 million daily from April 18, 2016 till date of judgment.

The electricity distribution companies also prayed for the sum of N150 million for specific damages for the defendant’s interference in the performance of their employees duties and further sought for payment of their legal fees.

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