Justice John Dele Peters of National Industrial Court 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.
Babalola, an Oyo State Correspondent of Fresh 107.9 fm based in Abeokuta had defeated the then incumbent chairman, Mr Adewumi Faniran of Federal Radio Coloration of Nigeria(FRCN), Ibadan zonal station, with a total of 179 votes to the latter’s six votes.
Two members of staff of FRCN, Oluwakayode Banjo and Mosope Kehinde respectively, had on December 13 filed a suit seeking to disqualify Babalola, who was cleared by the national secretariat of the union to contest in the election.
The claimants also instituted a motion for a restraining order before against the national and state officers of the union seeking to prevent them from conducting the election, which was dismissed on the day of the said election.
In dismissing the application, the court, however, advised that the status quo be maintained on the day election was held.
Nigerian Tribune reports that at the time the said advice was served on the defendants, new officers had emerged and sworn in.
The claimants in the suit sued NUJ, national president, national secretary, national executive council, chairman of NUJ electoral committee in Oyo State, Pastor Kayode Akinsola, Prince Semiu Azeez, members of the 2019 credential committee of NUJ in the state and Mr Ademola Babalola as 1st to the 8th defendants.
At the proceedings on Tuesday, lead counsel to the 8th defendant, 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 appearance was filed out of time.
Ruling on the matter, Justice Peters granted the defendants’ application for adjournment, saying all parties in the case must be given a fair hearing. He then adjourned the case to February 19, 2020, for the hearing of all pending applications on the motion for an injunction.
Speaking 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 8th 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 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 the 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 an 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 the application for an injunction against the conduct of 2019 election of officers of Nigerian Union of Journalists. I was surprised that the 8th defendant, who is Mr Ademola Ismail Babalola, filed a counter-affidavit and some other court processes yesterday, 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 the reason he opposed the adjournment, Awokoya said “Once an originating summon has been filed, an application on notice or whatever had been filed and it has been served on the defendant, just like the 8th 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 tactic 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.”