The Federal High Court in Osogbo, Osun State has restrained the West Agro Input Dealers Association (WAIDA) from forcing members of Artisans, Peasants and Traders Association of Nigeria (APTAN) or any other persons to join WAIDA against their will.
It also ordered WAIDA to pay a sum of N200,000 for the expired agro chemical products confiscated from one Abdul Ganiy Adebayo, in addition to awarding a sum of N500,000 as damages.
In a 12-page judgement, Justice M. A. Onyetenu ruled that WAIDA and its members violated the rights of one Mr AbdulGaniy Adebayo, an APTAN member, for confiscating his wares after refusing to join WAIDA in Osun State.
Onyetenu ordered the Respondents – WAIDA, represented by its leaders, one Mr Kolade (aka Baba Kolade and Mr Rafiu Olaniyi to release and deliver to the 3rd applicants (Abdul Ganiy Adebayo), his confiscated products immediately. She also ordered the Respondents to pay the market value of any of his good which have expired in their possession within 7 days.
“The Respondents are hereby ordered to pay the sum of N500,000.00 jointly and severally to the applicants as damages to the breach of the applicants’ rights.
“The Respondents, their agents, servants, privies or any persons claiming from them or through their groups of persons or association are hereby restrained from further harassing, intimidate, threatening,, and disturbing the applicants or any member of the applicants’ association from selling agro chemical products or any other lawful trade in Osun State of Nigeria.”
The judge also declared any form of harassment, molestation, intimidation or threat to the Applicants and their members from operating the business of agro chemical products or any form of trading throughout Osun State as: “illegal, unconstitutional and violates the applicants’ rights to peaceful association as guaranteed in Section 40 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and Articles 10 and 11 of the African Charter on Human and People (Ratification and Enforcement) Act
Justice Onyetenu faulted the defence of WAIDA as baseless and lacking in merit.
“The Respondents story is full of portholes. I do not believe their so-called, ‘protector of the society’ stand. It is clear to me that all they want to do is to achieve monopoly in the sales of agro chemicals and thus, they are ready to to ride rough shod over anyone that crosses their path, in particular, the 3rd Applicant. I therefore found that they indeed breached the fundamental rights of applicants in this case,” Justice Onyetenu submitted.
While the WAIDA’s counsel was not in court to comment on the ruling, APTAN’s counsel, Sakirat A. Asafa-Olaore described the judgement as a victory for the oppressed, the vulnerable and the weak in the society.
She urged artisans and peasants to always take courage to pursue their rights and wrestle it from the oppressed through the legal means, stressing that it is only through such that justice, equity and fair play can be maintained and sustained in the society.
“Its high time petty traders and artisans knew their rights as enshrined by the sacrosanct 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended. This is because it is a rampant act by all sorts of traders/artisans’ association to always force people to join their associations, without any respect for the fundamental human rights of such poor and innocent people.
“Our right to peaceful assembly stipulated under section 40 of the constitution is not just there for decoration…”, Asafa-Olaore said.
Responding to the judgement, APTAN Secretary Mr Qasim Olawusi expressed joy over the victory on the legal journey that commenced about three years ago.
“We are happy for this judgement because it will deter other associations from taking laws into their hands. For there years now, our members have been denied his legal means of sustenance as his wares were carted away by lawless individuals,” he said.
According to Olawusi, Adebayo had reported the case of harassments by WAIDA to APTAN, his association, but all attempt to resolve the issue amicably proved abortive. Hence, they resorted to legal action.
“We decided to visit WAIDA on their meeting day, but all our effort to settle the misunderstanding and enlighten them that, apart from the fact that, Adebayo is a member of APTAN, they have no reason to force him against his will to join their association”.
APTAN Secretary commended the judiciary for being the last hope of the masses and expressed relief that his association is now free as a corporate organisation to operate in any part of the State of Osun.
By Adeyinka Aremu