The National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) on Wednesday adjourned till May 9, 2022, a suit filed by a the retired Judge of Lagos High Court, Justice Samuel Candide-Johnson, to allow parties in the matter to explore an out of court settlement.
Justice Candide-Johnson had instituted the suit against the governor of Lagos State. over the failure of the state government to pay his pension, gratuity, and other entitlements.
Apart from the governor, other respondents in the case are the state’s Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Moyosore Onigbanjo (SAN), the Lagos State Judicial Service Commission, and the National Judicial Council (NJC).
At the resumed hearing of the suit, a lawyer from the state’s Ministry of Justice, Saheed Quadri urged Justice Maureen Esowe to adjourn the matter to enable parties discuss and agree on a settlement.
Quadri urged the judge to grant an adjournment for four weeks.
The claimant’s lawyer, Yemi Candide-Johnson (SAN) did not oppose the request but asked the state government to withdraw its preliminary objection to the suit to demonstrate that the request for settlement was done in good faith.
Quadri, however, opposed the move insisting that he was optimistic about the settlement talks.
The trial judge, Justice Esowe in her response, said the rules of the National Industrial Court allows parties to seek amicable settlement between parties. Based on the development, she adjourned further proceedings in the matter to May 9, 2022 for a report of settlement.
In his statement of facts, the retired judge claimed that his monthly salary and other consolidated allowances as recorded in his last pay slip stood at N749,166.66(seven hundred and forty nine thousand, one hundred and sixty six naira, sixty-six kobo) net earnings, and N561,777.64(five hundred and sixty one thousand, seven hundred and seventy seven naira, sixty four kobo.
He stated further, “The annual salary of one of the claimant’s domestic staff is N600,000.00 at N50,000 monthly. The claimant also received the sum of N5,414,220.00 as furniture allowance in May 26, 2021. Thus the annual salary of four of the claimant domestic staff is N2,400,000.00.”
The claimant stated that in accordance with provisions of the constitution, and the Pension Rights of Judges Act, he is entitled to a minimum life time pension of N21,145,551.6, and therefore urged the court to declare that he is entitled to the payment of his pension, severance gratuity, and other entitlements, and that the governor should calculate his entitlements and pay them forthwith.
The claimant is also asking the court for an order directing the governor to pay N10 million damages for failing to pay his pension and severance gratuity in accordance with the law.
But in their reply, the Governor and the Attorney General exonerated themselves from the action by filing a Motion on Notice, stating that the claimant’s action as constituted discloses no reasonable cause of action against them.
The first and second Respondents further stated that “the administration and payment of pension of retired judicial officers has been transfered to the third defendant (Judicial Service Commission) pursuant to the Pension Right of Lagos State Judicial Officers Law Ch.P3, Volume 9, Laws of Lagos State 2015”.
The Respondents also maintained that the claimant belong to the third arm of government, judiciary, which has been constitutionally bestowed with its independence and financial autonomy that is sacrosanct. “sections 291(3) and (4) of the constitution recognizes the application of State’s law in the administration and payment of pension of retired judicial officers, the claimant inclusive”.
Therefore, it stated, “all the reliefs being sought against the first and second defendants cannot be granted against them as they cannot implement the Federal Acts heavily relied on by the claimant”.
In its defence, the third defendant, the State Judicial Service Commission, urged the court to dismiss the suit as it is vexatious and lacking in merit.
In its 20 paragraph statement of defence, the third defendant stated that Lagos State government is not mandated to adopt the payment of the retirement benefit of judicial officers as contained in section 291(2) and 3(a-c) stricto senso.
The JSC stated that “the delay in the payment of the claimant and other affected retired judges’ benefits is due to administrative impediments. The third defendant is working earnestly with other agencies of the first defendant to ensure that the claimant and other affected retired judges receive their entitlements in good time after all administrative issues must have been resolved”.