Justice John Dele Peters of National Industrial Court of Nigeria, sitting in Ibadan, on Tuesday refused to grant an application against the National President of Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), Mr. Chris Iziguzo, and seven other members of the union over the December 18, 2019 election of officers of the union in Oyo State won by Comrade Ademola Babalola as Chairman.
Babalola, an Oyo State Correspondent of Fresh 107.9 based in Abeokuta, Ogun state, had defeated the incumbent, Mr. Adewumi Faniran Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN), Ibadan zonal station, with a total of 179 votes to the latter’s six votes.
Two journalists, Messrs Oluwakayode Banjo and Mosope Kehinde, who are Mr. Faniran’s subordinates in FRCN had in December 13 filed substantive suit for disqualification of Babalola, who was earlier cleared by the national secretariat of the union as chairmanship candidate for the poll.
Faniran, a member of FRCN NUJ Chapel, Ibadan, who chaired the union in Oyo State for statutory three years between December 21, 2016 and December 18, 2019, also sought re-election.
The claimants also followed up with a motion for a restraining order before the court against national and state officers of the union against conduct of the election, which was dismissed on the day of the said election.
In dismissing their application, the court however, advised that status quo be maintained on the day election was held.
But at the time the said advice was served on the defendants, new officers had emerged and sworn in. The suit was marked NICN/IB/91/2019.
The claimants in the suit sued NUJ, national president of the union for himself and members of national secretariat, national secretary of the union, national executive council, chairman of NUJ in Oyo State, Pastor Kayode Akinsola, Prince Semiu Azeez for himself and other members of the 2019 credential committee of NUJ in the state, and Mr. Ademola Babalola as first to the eighth defendants.
At the proceedings on Tuesday, the lead counsel to the eighth defendant (Ademola Babalola), Mr. Toyese Owoade, from the law firm of Afe Babalola and Co, informed the court that he filed a memorandum of appearance and counter affidavit to the motion for injunction in the court on Monday January 13, 2020 and prayed the court for an adjournment in order to regularise the processes before the court.
But counsel to the claimants, Mr. Oluwadamilare Awokoya, opposed the application and also applied that cost be awarded against the defendants, in favour of his clients on the grounds that the memorandum of understanding was filed out of time.
But Justice Peters refused the claimants’ application against adjournment and granted the defendants’ application for adjournment instead, saying all parties in the case must be given fair-hearing. He then adjourned the case to February 19 2020 for hearing of all pending applications on the motion for injunction.
In an interview with journalists after the court proceedings, the defendants’ counsel, Owoade said: “What happened in court today was that an aggrieved member of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) filed an action against the conduct of the election that was held on December 18, 2019. We have been served, though I am not sure all the defendants were served in the matter.
“But my own client that I represented during the proceedings (Babalola), who is the eighth defendant, was served on December 20, 2019. We promptly responded and I filed our processes in reaction to the suit.
“On getting to court this morning, we informed the court that we filed our memorandum of appearance and counter affidavit to the motion for injunction out of time. We sought for an adjournment today to regularise those processes before the court. The counsel to the claimant opposed the application and also applied that cost be awarded against our client.
“The judge, in his wisdom, refused the application and granted an application for adjournment. The matter was thereafter adjourned for hearing of the applications for injunction.
“In fact, if you go through what the claimants filed, there is no relief that affects the conduct of the election. All the reliefs they sought bordered on disqualification of a particular candidate in the election. So, there was no relief at all, restraining them from conducting the election, though they have something like that in the application for injunction. But in the main suit that was filed, their grouse was the eligibility of a particular candidate in that election, who is my own client.”
Counsel to the claimants, Awokoya, also told journalists that “the matter was slated for hearing of application for injunction against the conduct of 2019 election of officers of Nigerian Union of Journalists. I was surprised that the eighth defendant, who is Mr. Ademola Ismail Babalola, filed counter affidavit and some other court processes yesterday (Monday), which I was just told in the court. I became aware when the counsel was saying that. He has the right. We made our necessary applications before the court so that our application can be heard, and the court said we should wait till February so that we can hear everything together.”
Explaining basis for his opposition to the adjournment, Awokoya said “Once and originating summon has been filed, and application on notice or whatever had been filed and it has been served on the defendant, just like the eighth defendant, it behoves on him to file his response within seven days for the application.
“So, that was our grouse that filing the processes yesterday was out of time, having been aware that there is a matter before the court. So, that is why they said they have a motion to regularise.
“Definitely, it is a delay tactics and that is why we asked the court to award cost in our favour. It is a ploy to buy time. But we definitely know that the wheel of justice may grind slowly, definitely it will attain its result.”