Amidst rumours that former vice president, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar is gunning for presidency come 2019, the programme coordinator for Atiku Agenda 2019 has outlined reasons why his group is mobilising Nigerians to support Atiku. Chief Emeka Kalu who is chairman of Stercoll Group International and programme coordinator for Atiku Agenda 2019 said he does not see Nigeria being led by any president at the moment, hence his resolve to support someone rule. He made this known in a telephone interview with our reporter. His words: “Nigeria is in dire need of a competent leader like Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. The formation of Atiku Agenda “is one of hope, especially in the light of Nigeria’s current level of poor governance. “This group is open to all Nigerian regardless of religion, ethnicity and class. We believe in one united and more prosperous Nigeria. Atiku Agenda 2019 is a step in the right direction for all Nigerians to be actively involved in politics at all levels. “The beauty of this group is that we are not sitting back and expecting things to be handed to us. We are working to change the change and this we can achieve by supporting Atiku presidential ambition come 2019. “Currently, Nigeria does not have a president hence the urgent need of Atiku’s service to quickly rescue the economy of the nation. “No doubt, our country is at crossroads and urgently needs rescue. Nigeria is in need of a leader with a track-record of credibility and empathy, a leader with vast political and administrative experience, a focused and detribalised leader with friends across our geopolitical borders, a leader with memorable antecedents and a man of unquestionable character. “The formation of this progressive pressure group, which is expected to have Coordinators in the 36 states of the federation as well as in the diaspora, was borne out of the need to create a platform for sustained dialogue towards finding better alternatives for resolving many of the multi-faceted challenges facing our beloved country, Nigeria.
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and counsel to Neconde Energy Limited, Mr. Uchechukwu Val Obi has warned the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), that it will not succumb to blackmail and antics. This followed the seven-day ultimatum given by the oil workers to the federal government to direct Neconde to recall its sacked staff or risk industrial action.
The learned counsel argued that PENGASAN’s ultimatum to the federal government was made in bad faith and with a view to overreaching the pending proceedings at the National Industrial Court.
He recalled that in the Suit Number NICN/LA/268/2017 between Neconde Energy Limited & Anor. Vs. PENGASSAN & Ors, the presiding judge, Hon. Justice O. A. Obaseki-Osaghae had on June 5, 2017 made an order “that none of the Parties should take any action that will lead to break down in law and order pending the hearing and determination of the Motion on Notice.”
In a letter dated December 8, 2017 and addressed to Comrades Francis Johnson, Lumumba I. Okugbara and Abel Agar – President, General Secretary and Zonal Chairman, respectively, Obi, who is the Managing Partner of Alliance Law Firm, reminded the union leaders that disputes involving Neconde and its staff members affiliated to PENGASSAN had received the best consideration of Neconde leading to a binding communiqué signed between Neconde and PENGASSAN in May 2017.
The senior lawyer also informed the PENGASSAN leadership that Neconde had fully complied with the terms of the communique.
He drew the attention of the union leaders to their letter of December 7, 2017 addressed to “All NEC Members” of PENGASAN in which the union gave a seven-day ultimatum to the federal government and its relevant agencies of the association’s intention to embark on a nationwide strike effective December 18, 2017 if they fail to direct Neconde to recall its sacked staff.
Obi reminded the union that the right of Neconde, as an employer of labour to hire and fire personnel is within its legal rights as aptly pronounced by the “Supreme Court in the case of Chukwumah Vs. Shell Petroleum Development Corporation (1993) 4 NWLR (Pt. 289) where the apex Court held that an employer has the right to terminate its employee’s employment for good reason, bad reason or no reason at all”.
According to Neconde’s counsel, this prerogative of the management was expressly preserved in the communiqué aforesaid, adding that Neconde has made it clear that it properly disengaged the affected staff and paid due entitlements.
“When PENGASSAN and some of its members had continued to issue fresh threats despite its execution of the communiqué, Neconde had instituted a case at the National Industrial Court, namely Suit No. NICN/LA/268/2017 between Neconde Energy Limited & Anor. Vs. PENGASSAN & Ors seeking declaratory and injunctive reliefs et al,” Obi said.
Obi also noted that on June 5, 2017 the National Industrial Court presided over by the Hon. Justice O. A. Obaseki-Osaghae upon hearing an application made orders that “All parties to maintain the status quo ante bellum”; and “that none of the Parties should take any action that will lead to break down in law and order pending the hearing and determination of the Motion on Notice. This Order has been served on PENGASSAN and it remains extant, binding, subsisting and enforceable to date”.
Neconde’s counsel also argued that PENGASAN’s ultimatum to the federal government and its relevant agencies to direct or prevail on Neconde to accede to its request to recall the sacked staff is made in bad faith and with a view to overreaching the pending proceedings.
The senior lawyer also described the threat by PENGASSAN to embark on a nationwide strike as an action that is capable of leading to a break down in law and order, which was expressly restrained by the binding order of the court.
“Under a democratic setting, the Courts should be allowed to hear and determine parties’ conflicts and it must be seen as an affront to the Court’s constitutional powers for any litigant to resort to self-help or embark on acts capable of intimidating or undermining the constitutional adjudicatory powers of the Court. Neconde therefore views PENGASSAN’s ultimatum as a contempt of Court and would be taking necessary steps against PENGASSAN and its leadership seemingly behind this action,” Obi explained.
According to him, the present ultimatum of PENGASSAN threatening a “nationwide strike” should the executive fail to interfere in a pending judicial proceeding exposes the weakness and ineptitude of the current PENGASSAN leadership who have resorted to unorthodox and undemocratic antics to trade unionism.
“Ordinarily, a trade union such as PENGASSAN should be a firm adherent to the tenets of the rule of law. Neconde remains committed to a lawful mode of dispute resolution and is willing to continue its engagement with PENGASSAN and any other stakeholders within standard, lawful and conventional parameters but would not relinquish its legal and inherent rights as an employer, as presently sought by a self-seeking leadership of PENGASSAN or at all,” he added.
The law firm called on the “understanding and intervention of the larger PENGASSAN membership, relevant agencies of the federal government, other stakeholders and concerned members of the public to prevail on the leadership of PENGASSAN not to unleash unnecessary and avoidable hardship on the nation by embarking on the threatened nationwide strike, but to explore the rules of engagement or await the outcome of the pending litigation”.
The law firm also copied the Minister of State, Petroleum Resources; Minister for Labour and Productivity; Director-General State Security Service; The Inspector General of Police; The President, Trade Union Congress and the Chief Registrar, National Industrial Court, Lagos.