The Supreme Court will on June 30 pronounce on whether the decisions of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) are appealable to the Court of Appeal. The Apex Court fixed the date after a full panel of justices presided over by Justice Mary Peter Odili heard arguments from parties
The Court of Appeal, Lagos Division had in 2014 referred to the Supreme Court the appeal in Mainstreet Bank Ltd (now Skye Bank Plc) vs Victor Anaemen Iwu seeking a resolution of the substantial question of law on finality of decisions of NIC.
The Skye Bank appeal was consolidated with another related appeal – CocaCola Nigeria Limited VS Mrs. Titilayo Akinsanya in which the Court of Appeal, Lagos Division, in 2013 – held that there was no general right of appeal for a litigant against the decision of the NICN except as limited in Section 243(2)(4) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended)
It is believed that the Supreme Court decision will resolve the controversy and conflicting decisions by the Court of Appeal in various divisions. Over a hundred appeals are awaiting the Supreme Court decision in this regard.
The conflicting decisions of the Court of Appeal arose mainly in their interpretation of Sections 240 and 243 (14) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) by the Third Alteration Act of 2010.
The Third Alteration had promoted the National Industrial Court (NIC) from the status of an inferior court to a superior court of records having the same powers as a high court.
Section 240 of the Constitution (as amended) listed the NIC as one of the courts from which an appeal can lie from their decisions to the Court of Appeal.
Section 243(2) granted a right of appeal to litigants in matters relating to fundamental rights connected to the jurisdiction of NIC as of right, but section 243(3) provides that “An appeal shall only lie from the decision of the National Industrial Court to the Court of Appeal as may be prescribed by an Act of the National Assembly …” while Section 243(4) then provides that “…the decisions of the Court of Appeal on appeals on the civil jurisdiction of the National Industrial Court shall be final”.
On February 13 and 15, 2013, the Court of Appeal sitting at Ado Ekiti Division decided four cases in which it held that the NICN is not a final court and that its decisions were appealable to the Court of Appeal.
However, the Court of Appeal Lagos Division, in a July 4, 2013 judgment in the case of CocoCola (Nig) Ltd vs. Akinsanya (2013) 18 NWLR (pt. 1386) 225 held that until the National Assembly passes a law granting litigants right of appeal with leave, that the right does not exist.
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