A Federal High Court in Lagos will today hear a suit by two members of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) seeking to stop the zonal delegates conference.
Justice Okon Abang had on Monday directed the defendants to maintain the status quo pending the hearing of a Motion on Notice dated May 22, filed by Messrs John Nwanosike and Jonathan Omare, who are members of PENGASSAN, Chevron Nigeria Limited Branch.
PENGASSAN, its Chevron Branch, Mr Esanubi Frank and Mr Ayanate Kio are the defendants.
The plaintiffs, in a motion ex-parte, had sought to restrain the defendants from holding the delegates conference.
Justice Abang, in a bench ruling, said: "The defendants are hereby advised in their interest to be conscious of the principle of law enunciated in the case of FETB vs Ezebu (Pt. 220 NWLR) and the need for them to suspend all further actions on issues arising from the motion on notice until the motion is heard and determined.
"Any step taken by the defendants on this issue upon receipt of the motion on notice, i.e. the motion properly and duly served on them shall be nullified.
"The motion on notice shall be served alongside the instant Bench ruling of the court. I so hold," Justice Abang said.
The plaintiffs, in their affidavit in support, said they were elected as delegates, which is valid for three years, but that the defendants removed their names when their tenure is yet to expire.
They said in a bid to prevent them from voting or being voted for in the conference, the second and third defendants set up a disciplinary committee to try them after they expressed their concern that their rights were threatened.
According to them, the panel declared them guilty even as they did not commit any criminal offence to warrant setting up of the disciplinary committee.
"If the defendants are not restrained, the plaintiffs will be unable to exercise their constitutional rights to vote and be voted for," he said.
Despite Justice Abang's ruling, PENGASSAN allegedly held the conference in Lagos yesterday.
The association's spokesman, Mr. Babatunde Oke, said Abang's directive could not have been binding since it was not made by the National Industrial Court.
He said: "They're supposed to take their case to the National Industrial Court, which is the appellate court for all industrial and workplace matters.
"If they got the order from a wrong place, then PENGASSAN has a right to go ahead with the conference," he said.
Adjourning the case till today, Justice Abang said: "The instant motion ex-parte is hereby adjourned to abide the outcome of the motion on notice which on account of its urgency is hereby fixed for hearing on May 28, 2014."