Activist drags Anambra govt, IGP to court over ban of tricycle, demands N50bn

A human rights activist, KeneChukwu Okeke and the Chief Ombudsman for the Tricycle Owners Association of Nigeria (TOAN) has instituted a N50 billion fundamental rights action on behalf of tricycle riders against the Anambra State Government, Inspector-General of Police, and the Anambra State Commissioner of Police.

Okeke is praying the National Industrial Court of Nigeria to interpret or apply the fundamental rights of tricycle workers in Anambra State guaranteed under Articles 2, 5, 10, and 22 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, Cap. A9, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004; and Sections 34, 40, 42 & 44 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended)
as it relates to freedom of association and to sanction the Anambra State Government, Police, and other non-state actors for so infringing upon the fundamental rights of the Applicants.

According to him, the Anambra State Government (1st Respondent) had on the 5th day of July arbitrarily, maliciously, without any justification and in ‘excess of jurisdiction’ proscribed the Tricycle Owners Association of Nigeria (TOAN) from operating in Anambra vide a letter addressed to the Commissioner of Police (6th Respondent) without affording the 1st Applicant an opportunity to make representations before the issuance of the proscription order which doth violence to Sections 36 (1), (2) & 40 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).

In the case marked NICN/AWK/33/2019 filed at the Registry of the National Industrial Court, Awka Judicial Division on behalf of the Tricycle Owners Association of Nigeria (TOAN), August 19, Okeke told the court that not only that the fundamental rights inherent in the 2nd Applicants as members of a trade union was violently breached, but the fundamental rights which infers in the 1st Applicant itself, as a registered trade union, persona ficta corpus corporatum was contravened by the Respondents.

The activist insisted that the actions of the Anambra State Government and the Police was malafide, politically orchestrated, ill-conceived, with the sole aim to “cause maximum damage” to the Applicants. It was further submitted the fundamental right to freedom of association cannot be abridged or circumscribed, save through a procedure permitted by law. Furthermore, it was said that the 10th to 33rd Respondents invaded and forcefully took-over all the tricycle parks belonging to the 1st Applicant in Anambra State at the instance of the 1st to 4th Respondents, using the instrumentality of the police therein named as the 5th to 8th Respondents. And that members of the 1st Applicant refusing to be lurched or compelling to renouncing the Tricycle Owners Association of Nigeria (TOAN) or refusing to be coerced to joining the 10th and 11th Respondents being an athwart labour association are arrested, detained, assaulted, shackled and have their tricycles (tools of trade) distrained.

Okeke stated under oath that whenever the 5th to 8th Respondents see any commercial tricycle bearing the colour code, emblem or stickers of the 1st Applicant, the 5th to 33rd Respondents working in cahoots, would arrest, impound or distrain such tricycles, and compel or lurch such tricycle workers (members of the 1st Applicant) to renounce the membership or any association with the 1st Applicant, and thence coerced to subscribing to the membership of the 10th and 11th Respondents but not after parting with levies and fines imposed collectively by the 5th to 33rd Respondents at various Police Stations.

He also said that the fundamental right to freedom from any form of discrimination vide Section 42 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) is absolute, and cannot therefore be abridged or circumscribed by any person, group of persons or authority; and that the 1st to 4th Respondents arbitrarily, maliciously and in ‘excess of jurisdiction’ proscribed the 1st Applicant, so as to confer advantages on the 10th to 33rd Respondents and to subjecting the Applicants to disabilities or restrictions to which other associations are not made subject to. And that the 5th to 8th Respondents have taken the membership or any association with the 1st Applicant as grounds for arrests, detention and discriminating persecutions.

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“As at the material time of this deposition, majority of the members of the 1st Applicants vis-a-vis 2nd Applicants are still under forced hiding or disappearance for fear of state-sponsored violent attacks on their persons. Many are gone with a trace.” Okeke averred.

He told the court that by the malafide actions of the Respondents, the Applicants are “subjected to an undeserved outrageous and unwarranted contempt, cruelty, insolence, malice, oppression, humiliation, molestation, embarrassment, degradation, and inconveniences vide the infringement of their fundamental rights as guaranteed under Articles 2, 5, 10, & 22 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, Cap. A9, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004; and Sections 34, 40, 42 & 44 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).”

He said that the proscription order issued by the Anambra State Government is “most opprobrious and denigrating” albeit misleading, baseless, malicious and totally bereft of any foundation in common law howsoever.

It will be recalled that Anambra State Government had in a letter dated June 13, proscribed the Tricycle Owners Association of Nigeria (TOAN) from operating from Anambra State. Kenechukwu Okeke, MCSD condemned the purported proscription and demanded for an immediate reversal. He also threatened legal action against the State and non-State actors should the Anambra State Government fail to reverse the said proscription within 30 days.

However, Okeke said he had no choice than to seek legal redress, since the Anambra State Government rather than mitigate the plight of hapless workers is insensitive nay aggravates the pains of the poor masses.

“The Applicants are still at a loss as to why the Nigeria Police Force under the overall command of the 5th Respondent have stooped so low or denigrated itself to the extent of liaising or working in cahoots with touts and revenue racketeers named as the 10th to 33rd Respondents to arresting, detaining, harassing, intimidating, extorting, assaulting, lurching nay compelling the members of the 1st Applicant to renounce any form of association with the 1st Applicant and forcing the members of the 1st Applicant to sign or subscribe to the membership forms and levies of the 10th and 11th Respondents as a condition for their bail,” Okeke Asserted.

The Applicants said the “purported proscription” was also published by several newspapers nationwide, international news platforms and on several social media news.

Consequently, the Applicants sought fifteen(15) reliefs from the National Industrial Court, thus:

1. A DECLARATION that the freedom of association guaranteed under Article 10 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, Cap. A9, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004; and Section 40 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (amended) is not merely a bundle of individual fundamental rights inherent in the 2nd Applicants as natural members of the 1st Applicant but the collective rights which inhere in the 1st Applicant itself as a registered trade union, persona ficta corpus corporatum.

2. A DECLARATION that the proscription of the 1st Applicant, as contained in the letter dated 13th June, 2019 vide AN/MOT/130/71 issued by the 3rd Respondent on behalf of the 1st and 2nd Respondents without affording the 1st Applicant the opportunity to be heard or make prior representations before the decision contained in the letter was made, thereof violated the fundamental rights of the Applicants and contravened Articles 2, 5, 10 & 22 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, Cap. A9, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004; and Sections 36(1), (2), & 40 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (amended) having impugned on the Applicants’ right to fair hearing and freedom of association.

3. A DECLARATION that the proscription of the 1st Applicant by the 3rd Respondent acting on behalf of the 1st and 2nd Respondents, on the ground of being ‘strange to Anambra State Government’, enforcement of same being carried out by the 5th to 8th Respondents and the subsequent acts of violence unleashed against the members of the 1st Applicant by the 10th to 33rd Respondents in pursuance to the said proscription is discriminatory; and therefore constituted a violation to the fundamental rights of the Applicants to associate freely, and freedom from any form of discrimination, as enshrined under Sections 34 (1), 40 & 42 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (amended) but not limited to the express provisions, as ensconced in Articles 2, 5, 10 & 22 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, Cap. A9, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.

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4. A DECLARATION that the compulsion of the 2nd Applicants by the Respondents to renounce their membership or association with the 1st Applicant or coercion into joining the 10th and 11th Respondents, being an athwart labour or anti-trade union associations operating severally under the names and styles of ‘KKAWAAPU Amalgamated Tricycle Union of Anambra State’; or ‘Unified Tricycle Owners and Riders Association of Anambra, UTORAAS’ contravened the fundamental rights of the Applicants, as it relates to freedom of association by virtue of Articles 2, 5, 10 & 22 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, Cap. A9, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004; and Sections 40 and 42 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (amended).

5. A DECLARATION that the threats by the Respondents to arrest, detain, harass, torture, molest or assault members of the 1st Applicant or the 2nd Applicants for their refusal to be lurched or compelled to renounce the 1st Applicant or coerced to joining the 10th and 11th Respondents, being an athwart labour or anti-trade union associations operating severally under the names and styles of ‘KKAWAAPU Amalgamated Tricycle Union of Anambra State’ or ‘Unified Tricycle Owners and Riders Association of Anambra, UTORAAS’ is unlawful, illegal, unconstitutional, and doth violence to the fundamental rights of the Applicants as enshrined under Articles 2, 5, 10 & 22 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, Cap. A9, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004; and Section 40 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (amended), relating to freedom of association.

6. A DECLARATION that the actual victimization, discrimination, arrest, detention, forceful distrainment of tricycles, or assault by the respondents unleashed against the members of the 1st Applicant or the 2nd Applicants for their refusal to be lurched or compelled to renounce the 1st Applicant or coerced to joining the 10th and 11th Respondents, being an athwart labour or anti-trade union associations operating severally under the names and styles of ‘KKAWAAPU Amalgamated Tricycle Union of Anambra State’ or ‘Unified Tricycle Owners and Riders Association of Anambra, UTORAAS’ is unlawful, illegal, unconstitutional, null, void, and doth violence to the fundamental rights of the Applicants as enshrined under Articles 2, 5, 10 & 22 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, Cap. A9, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004; and Section 40 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (amended), relating to freedom of association.

7. A DECLARATION that the continued victimization, discrimination, arrest, harassment, detention, forceful distrainment of tricycles, torture, intimidation, molestation or assault by the Respondents unleashed against the members of the 1st Applicant or 2nd Applicants for their refusal to be lurched or compelled to renouncing the 1st Applicant or coerced to joining the 10th and 11th Respondents, being an athwart labour or anti-trade union associations operating severally under the names and styles of ‘KKAWAAPU Amalgamated Tricycle Union of Anambra State’ or ‘Unified Tricycle Owners and Riders Association of Anambra State, UTORAAS’ is unlawful, illegal, unconstitutional, null, void, and constitutes a gross infringement on the fundamental rights of the Applicants as enshrined under Articles 2, 5, 10 & 22 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, Cap. A9, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004; and Section 40 & 42 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (amended), relating to freedom of association.

8. A DECLARATION that the unlawful invasion and forceful take-over but not limited to both civil and criminal forfeitures made against the properties of the 1st Applicant and 2nd Applicants respectively by the 10th to 33rd Respondents at the behest of the 1st to 4th Respondents vide the instrumentality of the 5th to 8th Respondents smacks of victimization, deprivation, discrimination and grossly contumacious to the fundamental rights of the Applicants enshrined under Articles 2, 5, 10 & 22 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, Cap. A9, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004; and Section 44 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (amended), relating to compulsory acquisition of property.

9. AN ORDER OF MANDATORY INJUNCTION directing the Respondents to issue a public apologia to the Applicants via publications or ‘public announcements’ in the print and electronic media, for so infringing on the fundamental rights of the Applicants; and for the undeserved, outrageous and unwarranted contempt, cruelty, insolence, malice, oppression, humiliation, assault, molestation, embarrassment, degradation and inconveniences to which the Applicants was subjected to by the Respondents, viz.

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a. 5 Printed Newspapers published in Nigeria id est.
i. Vanguard,
ii. The Punch,
iii. The Nation,
iv. Guardian, and
v. Thisday;

b. 5 Printed Newspapers published in the Swiss Confederation id est.
i. Tamedia AG;
ii. Basler Zeitung Medien;
iii. Grupo;
iv. Fondazione per il Corriere del Ticino; and
v. Société Neuchâteloise de Presse SA;

c. 5 Printed Newspapers published in Belgium id est.
i. Het Belang van Limburg,
ii. De Tijd,
iii. De Morgen,
iv. Grenz-Echo, and
v. L’Avenir;

d. 20 Internet Media Platforms as prescribed in the Second Schedule.

e. 20 Terrestrial Radio Stations as prescribed in the Second Schedule.

f. 5 Terrestrial Television Stations as prescribed in the Second Schedule

10. AN ORDER OF PERPETUAL INJUNCTION restraining the Respondents either by themselves, their agents, privies, assigns, servants, police officers or other security agencies (within the purview of the National Security Agencies Act) from intermeddling with the activities of the 1st Applicant or interlarding with the fundamental rights of the 1st Applicant to accept as members, tricycle workers or employers who freely, voluntarily and willingly applied to become members of the 1st Applicant without victimization, discrimination, arrest, harassment, detention, forceful distrainment of tricycles, torture, molestation or assault.

11. AN ORDER OF PERPETUAL INJUCTION restraining the Respondents either by themselves, their agents, privies, assigns, servants, police officers or other security agencies (within the purview of the National Security Agencies Act) from lurching or compelling the Applicants to join the 10th and 11th Respondents, being an athwart labour or anti-trade union associations operating severally under the names and styles of ‘KKAWAAPU Amalgamated Tricycle Union of Anambra State’ or ‘Unified Tricycle Owners and Riders Association of Anambra, UTORAAS’ and from any further threats to victimize, arrest, harass, torture, or assault members of the 1st Applicant or the 2nd Applicants, or the actual victimization, arrests, harassment, torture, intimidation, molestation, or assault of members of the 1st Applicant or the 2nd Applicants.

12. AN ORDER OF PERPETUAL INJUNCTION restraining the Respondents either by themselves, their agents, privies, assigns, servants, police officers or other security agencies (within the purview of the National Security Agencies Act) from harassing intimidating, threatening, victimizing, arresting, torturing, intimidating, or assaulting or howsoever to bringing to an end the lawful activities of the Applicants or visiting any form or manner of disadvantage or punishment on members of the 1st Applicant or 2nd Applicants operating in Anambra State or any part thereof, on account of their refusal to be lurched or compelled to joining the 10th and 11th Respondents, being an athwart labour or anti-trade union associations operating severally under the names and styles of ‘KKAWAAPU Amalgamated Tricycle Union of Anambra State’ or ‘Unified Tricycle Owners and Riders Association of Anambra, UTORAAS’.

13. AN AWARD OF GENERAL DAMAGES in the sum of 10, 000, 000, 000 NGN (Ten Billion Naira only) against the Respondents jointly and severally for the violation of Applicants’ fundamental rights as guaranteed under and Articles 2, 5, 10 & 22 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, Cap. A9, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004; and Section 44 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (amended),; and Sections 34, 40, 42 & 44 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).

14. AN AWARD OF AGGRAVATED AND EXEMPLARY DAMAGES in the sum of 40, 000, 000, 000 NGN Only (Forty Billion Naira Only) against the 1st to 4th Respondents jointly and severally for the undeserved outrageous and unwarranted contempt, cruelty, insolence, malice, oppression, humiliation, molestation, embarrassment, degradation and inconveniences to which the 1st Applicant was subjected to by the Respondent vide the infringement of the Applicants’ fundamental rights as guaranteed under Articles 2, 5, 10 & 22 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, Cap. A9, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004; and Sections 34, 40, 42 & 44 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).

15. AND FOR SUCH FURTHER ORDERS as the Honourable Court may deem fit to make in the circumstances of this case

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