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Industrial court issues new Practice Directions on labour matters

From Olalekan Awojodu, Abuja

The National Industrial Court of Nigeria(NICN) have issued a new set of Practice Directions in matters that involve filing of applications, motions in Trade Union Matters and marking of exhibits in originating processes in order to cut trial time, avoid time wastage in marking documents in court and cater for other rules.

The President of the court, Justice Benedict Bakwaph Kanyip disclosed this at the new legal year ceremony in Abuja on Wednesday. He said that labour cases require quick disposal than other cases and therefore pleaded with those criticising the Practice Directions to give it some time to enable the court monitor its application.

To further ensure speedy resolution of cases, the Judge revealed that an Alternative Dispute Resolution Centre was established but regretted poor use of the ADR Centre by litigants and their lawyers.

He promised to make work environment more conducive for Judges, supporting staff and the entire workforce.

Justice B.B Kanyip, President, NICN

Justice Kanyip said that the court recorded more than 6,277 industrial related cases within two years and succeeded in disposing off 4, 108 out of the suits in the same period. He also decried the workload, saying it has been on the increase since its establishment. He thanked his brother Judges for effectively coping with challenges posed by the high figure of cases in spite of not too good working conditions. He promised to make work environment more conducive for Judges, supporting staff and the entire workforce.

On the closure of Owerri division of the court, Justice Kanyip was emphatic the decision would be reversed only when safety of the Judges and workers is guaranteed. He lamented that the Court has not yet receive security guarantee requested from some quarters but promised to look into the pleadings of the Nigeria Bar Association NBA in the matter.

Meanwhile, the Federal Government has commended the Court for putting the nation’s interest above other considerations in its handling of the dispute between it and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).

Speaking in Abuja on Wednesday, Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami SAN noted that the court had, on many occasions, saved the country from undue crisis through its deft handling of labour disputes.

On judges’ welfare, Malami argued that the Federal Government has done considerably well in that regard, and challenged judicial stakeholders, particularly the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) to lead the fight to ensure that state governments comply with constitutional provision guaranteeing financial autonomy for the Judiciary.

Malami, who was represented by the Head, Civil Appeals, Federal Ministry of Justice, Mr Tijani Gazali SAN spoke at the special court session to mark the Industrial Court’s 2022/2023 legal year.

The AGF added: “Speaking of the court’s pronouncements in recent times, particularly in the wake of industrial actions embarked upon by both the National Association of Resident Doctors and the Academic Staff Union of Universities, suffice to say, that indeed, the legal status of any strike action, let alone a protracted one, raises very crucial questions of law, and the approach with which the judges of the National Industrial Court have dealt with the related issues, in making better provision for promoting harmonious relations between workers and their employers is quite laudable.

“Recall the court’s role in putting an end to the recent strike action embarked upon by the National Association of Resident Doctors, wherein the learned trial judge ruled amongst others, that no amount money will be enough to compensate for the loss of lives that will be occasioned in the event that the strike is sustained any further.

“Sometimes, having to prioritize on the greater good, determining merit or otherwise, by focusing on outcomes and its impact on the greater number of people in ultimately stabilizing agreements freely negotiated by employers and trade unions, is an even more unique and daunting task of the National Industrial Court.

“Also valiantly calling to bear the inviolable duty of the court, is your Lordships’ recent decision in the application for interlocutory order filed by the Federal Government in (Suit no: NICN/ABJ/270/2022), for the industrial action to be halted, pending the determination of the substantive suit seeking the court’s inquiry and adjudication on the legality or otherwise of the ongoing prolonged strike action by the Associated Staff Union of Universities.

“Learned judge in fact, did well to consider the balance of convenience, in according utmost importance to the value of education vis-a-vis both the short and long term effects of its deprivation on the lives, values and wellbeing of students in public universities.

“We thank your Lordships for the well, considered decision to order the Academic Staff Union of Universities to return to lecture rooms, in the paramount interest of the education and tutelage for our teeming youths and in fact, in the overall, best interest of the nation,” Malami said.

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