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Court restrains NUJ from conducting women journalists’ election

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•NAWOJ ignores court order stopping poll
•The Nation, The Sun, others barred from voting

A National Industrial Court (NIC) in Lagos yesterday restrained the Nigerian Union of Journalist (NUJ) and four others from conducting yesterday’s National Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ) election, following an application by a contestant.

Justice R. H. Gwandu made the order after hearing a motion ex parte filed and argued by Omotayo Olatunbosun, a counsel representing a NAWOJ chairmanship contestant, Mrs Sekinah Lawal.

The judge granted the application and ordered the stoppage of the poll, which was scheduled for yesterday morning, pending the determination of Lawal’s suit.

Joined as first to sixth defendants in the suit are: Ekene Adeola, the Registered Trustees of the NUJ, Ifeyinwa Omowole, Ladi Bala, Mrs Abiola Beckley and Mrs Yemisi Adeniran.

The interim injunction restrained the respondents from recognising Adeola as chairperson candidate in the election.

It also restrained the body responsible for the conduct of the election from going ahead with it.

After granting the prayers, the judge ordered that the defendants be put on notice and ordered an accelerated hearing of the suit.

Justice Gwandu also warned parties that any attempt of omission or commission concerning the order could be treated as contempt of court.

The matter was adjourned till May 30.

Also, the Electoral Committee, led by Abiola Beckley, prevented the court bailiff from serving them the court order.

Upon arrival at the Eko FM voting venue in Ikeja, the court bailiff was prevented from serving the committee by men of the Department of State Security (DSS) and policemen, led by Adekunle Oyewole.

Some women from the Lagos State Ministry of Information also joined the security agencies to prevent the bailiff from entering the venue.

The women maltreated the bailiff and some journalists who urged them to let the man do his job.

The bailiff left after spending over four hours without being able to serve the injunction.

Also, in her May 22 affidavit in support of the application, Mrs Lawal averred that Adeola was ineligible to participate in the polls, having been disqualified by a seven-man Electoral Committee which screened the candidates for the election.

The applicant averred that upon constitution of the Electoral Committee under the chairmanship of Grace Ekpoanwan Achum, the electoral committee screened all the candidates for the respective offices and cleared only candidates that met the requirements of the NUJ Constitution.

She added: “Regarding the forthcoming election to the office of the chairperson, the electoral committee duly screened three candidates: the first defendant, Patience Eloh Okoh and myself, after which the committee determined that I am the only candidate eligible to contest for the post of chairperson, having met the requirement of the NUJ constitution.

“Subsequent to the above list of screened candidates, a final list of cleared candidates was issued by the electoral committee, and in the said list, I was the only person cleared to contest the office of the chairperson of the Lagos State chapter of the 2019 election of the Nigeria Association of Women Journalists.

“The first defendant was not cleared to contest due to the fact that she did not meet the requirements of Article 6(6)(i) and (ii) of the Constitution (non-payment of professional fee and less than 50 per cent attendance of meetings).”

Mrs Lawal said the national body of NAWOJ, by a May 3 letter, purportedly cleared all contestants to contest the election, which, according to her, it had no authority to do.

“The national body of NAWOJ does not have the power to waive the provision of Article 6 of the NUJ Constitution for any contestant,” she said.

Also, journalists from some media houses were prevented from voting.

They include The Nation, The Sun, Lagos Television (LTV) and The Guardian.

The committee said they did not pay the N3,000 charges per voter. No explanation was given to what the money was meant for.

Precious Igbonwelundu, a Senior Correspondent with The Nation, described the N3,000 as unconstitutional.

“Traditionally, NUJ’s check-off dues are paid through direct deductions from individual members and remitted through their chapels to the NUJ state council. Asking the women journalists to pay N3,000 is another form of corruption.

“Some women from the Ministry of Information boasted that their ministry had paid the N3,000 for each one of them. An election that was meant to be organised in a democratic way, but the committee disenfranchised us after our money had been deducted from our salaries,” she said.”

Miss Igbonwelundu noted that the committee installed by NAWOJ President Ifeyinwa Omowole, who is allegedly enmeshed in fraud case, took sides with some chapels.”

 

“They were obviously biased. They have no regards for the NUJ constitution. They set aside provisions that they felt would work against their interest and decided to implement the ones that favour them. This is against the interest of the generality of women journalists,” she said.

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