Court Okays operation of new transport association, Restrains Police, NURTW, RTEAN from interference

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Akure—The Presiding Judge of the National Industrial Court, Akure Judicial division, His Lordship, Hon. Justice K. D. Damulak has declared that Nigerian Association of Cooperative Transporters Limited, including the Kwara State chapter, has the right to carry out taxi transport services in any part of Kwara State, restrained the Commissioner of Police, Kwara State Command, any of his officers, NURTW, RTEAN Kwara State branch or any person whosoever acting on his instruction from harassing, interfering, disturbing, molesting and proscribing the peaceful operation of the claimants legitimate taxi transport business or services in any part of Kwara State.

Justice Damulak held that Kwara Commissioner of Police is not a court of law to determine whether or not the claimants can exist or carry out any particular business in view of the existence of the 2nd to 10th respondents.

From facts, Some individual taxi drivers formed and registered the Nigeria Association of Cooperative Transporters Limited (NACT), elected officials of the Kwara State chapter and fixed a day for the inauguration but the NURTW and RTEAN were aggrieved and used the State Commissioner of Police to stop them and proscribed the association on the ground of the existence of other transport associations in the State, that claimants either join NURTW or RTEAN or otherwise face prosecution.

Counsel submitted that the Claimants• association is a body corporate recognized under the extant laws of Nigeria with the legal capacity to carry out taxi transport services in any part of Kwara State that the proscription constitutes an infraction on the Claimants members right to peaceful assembly or association.

Defendant submitted that there are no private taxi drivers in Kwara State or any state in Nigeria that all taxi drivers in Nigeria are either members of NURTW or RTEAN that Exhibit attached to the affidavit is not a licence or authority to the Claimants to be operating transportation business in motor parks or as a transport union engaged in taxi cab township service.

There is nothing in the Nigerian Co-operative Societies Act which empowers Co-operative Societies to be operating or carrying on the business of transportation of passengers and goods by road in motor parks plying inter-State or intra-state routes or operating taxi cab township service.

Defendants asked whether the association so formed and registered as Cooperative Society can translate to a trade union without being registered as such that Bye-Laws of association is a usurpation of the statutory power of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) that the idea of issuing tickets to drivers of commercial vehicles at motor parks is quite alien to the objective or purpose of a Co-operative Society.

Delivering judgment, the trial Judge, Justice Damulak held that respondents have not shown by statutory provisions or decided authorities to the effect that the ownership, management of motor parks and operation of transportation by road, inter and intra-state or township service taxi cab business is their exclusive rights.

“Every Nigerian has the right to acquire property (movable or immovable) including a car and has a right to use same for commercial purposes without joining any Trade Union or any Association as a prerequisite to run his business. Private taxi owners and drivers must not and cannot be members of NURTW or RTEAN. I so hold.

“I accordingly hold that section 4 paragraphs 1, 10, 13, 14, 23 and 24 and section 5 paragraph 11 of the Claimants’ exhibit A2 has not transformed the claimants into a Trade union, they do not and cannot offend the provisions of the Trade Union Act, neither are those objectives the sole rights of the respondents.

“I accordingly agree with the claimants that the claimants rights to operate as drivers of their respective taxi cabs is neither premised on the Bye-Law of the Nigerian Association of Cooperative Transporters Limited nor donated by Nigerian Co-operative Societies Act, but is as a result of the right of self-employed persons to drive or operate their taxi or vehicles as allowed by the Laws of Nigeria.” Justice Damulak ruled.

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