Law News
Lawyer loses suit on right to appeal NIC judgments

A Federal High Court in Lagos has dismissed the suit challenging the rule that says judgments of the National Industrial Court in labour disputes are final and can hardly be appealed.

Justice Mohammed Idris, in his judgment, said the applicant, Olumide Babalola, had no locus standi to file the suit.

The judge said the reliefs being sought by the applicants were declaratory in nature and that the applicant failed to seek a positive order of the court.

Justice Idris upheld the preliminary objection by the National Industrial Court, through its lawyer, Mr. Ahmed Adetola-Kazeem, that the issues raised by the applicant were academic.

The applicant in the suit is a Lagos-based lawyer, Babalola, who was contending that Section 243 (2)(3) of the 1999 Constitution, which limits the right to appeal judgments of the NIC, offended the principle of fair hearing provided for in Section 36 of the same Constitution.

Among five other questions, the lawyer had asked the Federal High Court to determine “whether by the interpretation of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the decision of the NIC on matters listed under Section 254(c) of the Constitution is final and should be so interpreted.”

He also asked the Federal High Court to determine “whether the literal interpretation and application of Section 243 (2)(3) of the Third Alteration Act 2010 and the Constitution would not inflict untold hardship on parties affected by the decision of the NIC and continously violate litigants’ right to fair hearing as guaranteed by Section 36 of the Constitution.”

In a 12-paragragh supporting affidavit deposed to by himself, Babalola had said he found “the said provision a bit draconian and contrary to the constitutionally guaranteed right to fair hearing.”

He had argued, “Such constitutional provisions as Section 243(2)(3) of the 1999 Constitution, if interpreted literally with its implication, would constantly deprive Nigerian citizens their right to adequately ventilate their grievances through the hierarchy of the courts.”

Babalola had urged the court to declare that, “by virtue of Section 254(d)(i) of the 1999 Constitution, the NIC is a court of coordinate jurisdiction, which has same power as the state and federal high courts, hence the right of appeal from the NIC cannot be limited.”

He also wanted the court to declare that “by virtue of Section 243 (2)(3) of the 1999 Constitution, the National Industrial Court’s decision is not final in respect of matters listed under Section 254(c) of the Constitution.”

Joined as the two defendants in the suit are the Attorney General of the Federation and the President of the National Industrial Court.

But the NIC, through its lawyer, Chief Gani Adetola-Kaseem (SAN), had filed a preliminary objection, challenging Babalola’s locus standi to file the suit.

Adetola-Kaseem had also argued that the National Industrial Court is not a juristic person and cannot be sued.

Besides he had described Babalola’s suit as one which “raises academic rather than live issues contrary to the established principle that the court is established to deal with and resolve live rather than academic issues.”

The senior advocate argued, “It is instructive that all the reliefs sought by the plaintiff are declaratory in nature and the plaintiff has sought no consequential order.

“It is also instructive that although the plaintiff’s summons is supported with an affidavit of 12 paragraphs, there is nothing in the said affidavit to suggests that this action arose from a live issue currently pending before the court or that the plaintiff has suffered or is at imminent risk of suffering any injury to himself or anyone else which this action is supposed to remedy.”

Justice Idris upheld the preliminary objection and dismissed the applicant’s case.

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