Industrial Court Lacks Jurisdiction to hear Defamation Suit

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Court
Industrial Court

His Lordship, Hon. Justice M. A. Namtari of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria, Uyo Judicial Division on Monday 11th June 2018 in a Judgment delivered struck out suit filed by DR. SINYEOFORI A. BROWN against University of Uyo and 2 others for lack of jurisdiction.

The Claimant who was an employee of the University of Uyo (1st Defendant) until his purported dismissal on the 23rd of June, 2009, instituted Suit No. FHC/UY/CS/43/2009 at the Federal High Court, Uyo. The suit was subsequently transferred to this honourable Court vide the Order of the Federal High Court made on the 5th November, 2015.

The Claimant filed a complaint on 17th May, 2017 sought among others against the Defendants; A declaration that the Defendant’s letter to the Claimant titled Dismissal from Service and Defendants’ publication in its News Bulletin Vol. 32 No. 11 of March-June, 2009 are defamatory of, about and concerning the Claimant and   An Order of injunction restraining the Defendants and their privies from further publishing the libelous letter.

The Defendants filed a Notice of Preliminary Objection on 17th October, 2017 on the grounds that the Claimant’s cause of action and claims before this Court are squarely for the tort of defamation and this honourable Court lacks jurisdiction to entertain this Suit.

The Defendants argued that this Court is a Court of limited jurisdiction in terms of subject matter which have been limited to labour and employment matters as spelt out in Section 254C of the 1999 Constitution and cannot therefore entertain matters outside its constitutionally prescribed areas.

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Furthermore, it is the submission of the Claimant that the Federal High Court which does not have jurisdiction to entertain employment related matters, does not have jurisdiction to entertain the complaint of defamation/libel.

The Claimant strongly posited that by ousting jurisdiction of the Federal High Court on libel matters, and the State High Courts on matters in which the Federal Government or its agency is a party, only the National Industrial Court can entertain complaints involving an agency of the Federal Government in employment matters.

After reviewing the argument, processes filed and the submissions of learned Counsel for the parties, the Court Presided by Hon. Justice M. A. Namtari expressed thus;

“I am persuaded by similar decisions of this court in the cases of Clement J. Otton v. University of Uyo (NICN/UY/06/2012)and Dr. Clestine U. Njoku v. Engr. Clinton C. Emekoma (NICN/OW/66/2014) delivered by my lords, Justice B. B. Kanyip and Justice O. Y. Anuwe respectively.

“Placing the foregoing principles of law against the submissions of the parties in this instant application, I find the submission of the Defendants more in tune with the law than that of the Claimant. Tried as he did, the Claimant did not bring his case within the purview of section 254 C (1) of the Constitution.

“I have examined the claims of the Claimant and have not seen any relief directly regarding his employment with the Defendants. His attempt to do so by the definition of “incidental” in his address is cut up by the principle that jurisdiction cannot be conferred by inference and is therefore of no moment.

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“For the foresaid reasons, this court lacks the requisite jurisdiction to entertain this suit and the inevitable result is that the suit must be struck out and is hereby struck. I make no order as to cost.

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