By G9ija

The National Industrial Court on Tuesday fixed Nov. 11 for hearing in a suit filed by two members of Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association (PENGASSAN), Petroleum Equalisation Fund (Management) Board (PEF(M)B) Branch over alleged illegal suspension.

The complainants, Gambo Muhammed and Declan Agrinya approached the court to seek redress over their suspension by PENGASSAN, which resulted in them not receiving their benefits and entitlements from their employer since Sept. 2017.

The judge, Justice Edith Agbakoba, fixed the date, to allow the defence counsel, Mr Rudolph Ezeani to enter appearance and also move his preliminary objections.

News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the complainants alleged in their Originating summons that the first complainant, Muhammed was suspended on Feb. 25, 2014 from the association by the PEF(M)B Branch of the defendant without affording him the right to fair hearing

In their submission, they also said after the expiration of the tenure of executive committee members of the defendant’s PEF(M)B Branch on Nov. 29, 2015 and instead of conducting another election, the same executives were given approval to continue in interim capacities which was contrary to the set down guidelines.

They further alleged that it was in a bid to resolve the issue that they wrote a letter on Dec. 4, 2015 to the defendant, and when there was no respond, that they proceeded to court to file the first suit on Jan.13 ,2016.

The complainants submitted that it was this action of going to court, that prompted the defendant to suspend them on May 16, 2016 and that the enforcement of the said suspension had made the management of the PEF ( M)B not to pay them their benefits since Sept. 2017.

They said through several letters, they had demanded for their benefits and the second complainant was told by the Head- office Services of PEF(M)B that his benefits were been withheld because of the 2016 suit instituted by him and the first complainant.

They concluded by saying, that the continual action of the defendant in suspending them had necessitated their instituting this present suit.

The complainants are therefore seeking for a declaration based on the interpretation of Sections 6 (6) and 40 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended); Section 12 (1) of the Trade Unions Act; Rules 4,28 and 31; Schedules 2 and 3 of the constitution of PENGASSAN, 2013.

That by the wordings of the suspension letters dated May 16, 2016, the said suspension was wrong, illegal, null and void.

They are also seeking a declaration that based on the above stated sections of the Nigeria and PENGASSAN constitutions and Trade Unions Act, the letter signed by them dated Dec. 4, 2015 and stamped received by the defendant on Dec.7,2015, meant that they had activated the internal dispute resolution process as provided for by the PENGASSAN constitution.

The complainants amongst the reliefs sought are seeking the order of court setting aside their suspension for being wrong, illegal, null and void and an order directing the defendant to recall them as members.
An order of injunction restraining the defendant by themselves, agents, underlines and or privies under any guise from suspending and denying them their rights.

In addition, they are seeking the order of court directing the defendant to pay them the sum of N5 million in general damages and another N1.5 million as cost of prosecuting the suit.
NAN reports also that the defendant in its Motion on notice had asked the court to dismiss the suit on the ground that it had no jurisdiction to hear the matter.

The defendant said the complainants failed to employ the use of Internal dispute resolution mechanism provided by PENGASSAN constitution before they rushed to the court, and urged the court to dismiss the suit, as it was not ripe for hearing.

In addition, the defendant prayed the court to dismiss the suit as a similar suit was instituted in the court in the same matter.