The Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja has reversed the appointment of fiery activist and former Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Vice President, Mr. Monday Onyekachi Ubani as the Public Trustee of the Nigeria Civil Service Union.

Ruling on a motion brought by Ubani’s counsel and former NBA presidential candidate, Chief Joe-Kyari Gadzama SAN (with him, Darlington Onyekwere, Esq and Mark Chidi Agbo, Esq) for change of counsel in Appeal No. CA/A/1089/2019, The Nigeria Civil Service Union (Appellant) And Comrade Benson Ekasa & 3 Ors (Respondents), the Presiding Judge, Justice A. A. Adumien held that the President of the National Industrial Court (NICN) acted ultra vires his powers when he appointed a public trustee for the union on 29th December, 2020 after the Appellant (then represented by its Executives) had compiled, transmitted and exchanged briefs.

The court further held that the appeal had long been properly entered and the court below lacked jurisdiction to make any further pronouncement on the matter. The Court of Appeal also held that the public trustee should stop parading or acting as the public trustee of the Appellant, adding that any process filed in the court by the public trustee or through his lawyer would be discountenanced.

Chief Gadzama had filed a motion on behalf of the public trustee to withdraw the appeal settled by Mr. Leslie Nylander SAN (with him, Chika Eze Esq for Chief Lawrence Uchechukwu Amaechi, President, Nigeria Civil Service Union) on behalf of the executives of the Appellant union, arguing that with the appointment of the public trustee, Ubani became the alter ego of the troubled union and the mantle fell on him to take over all the affairs of the union, including the appeal.

In his counter argument, Nylander contended that the application was premature, as the current executives were challenging the order of the lower court to appoint a public trustee. He argued that legal representation had to be sorted out first.

He further submitted that allowing the public trustee to take over the appeal that was instituted by the Executives of the Appellant was tantamount to robbing them of their constitutional right of appeal, especially as the appeal was rightly and timeously entered and briefs exchanged by the parties as far back as November 2019 and February 2020 respectively, prior to the appointment of the public trustee on December 29, 2020.

Nylander submitted that part of the applications pending before the court is a motion to stop the appointed trustee from acting in that office, adding that any further act by the public trustee would render the whole appeal nugatory and foist a fait accompli on the court. He further argued that the President of the National Industrial Court failed to follow the laid down procedure as enshrined in Order 59 of National Industrial Court (Civil Procedure) Rules 2017 in appointing the public trustee.

The 1st Respondent was represented by Chinyere Moneme, Esq while the 2nd Respondent was represented by Mohammed Ndarani Mohammed SAN (with him, Stephen Apeh, Esq).

When contacted on the ruling, Ubani told CITY LAWYER tersely: “We are studying the decision. I may appeal it.”

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