The National Industrial Court of Nigeria recorded more than 6,277 industry-related cases within two years and succeeded in disposing off 4,108 out of the suits in the same period, its President, Justice Benedict Bakwaph Kanyip, said on Wednesday.
According to him, the workload of the NICN has been on the increase since its establishment.
Justice Kanyip who spoke in Abuja during the 2022/2023 Legal Year of the NICN, thanked his brother Judges for effectively coping with challenges posed by the high figure of cases in spite of not too good working conditions.
To ensure quick disposition of cases, the NICN President said he had issued National Industrial Court Practice Directions involving the filing of applications, motions in Trade Union Matters, and marking of exhibits in originating processes.
He said that the action was to cut trial time, avoid time wasting in marking documents in court and cater to other rules.
While insisting that labour cases require quick disposal than any others, Justice Kanyip pleaded with those criticising the Practice Directions to give it some time to enable the court to monitor its application.
To further ensure speedy resolution of cases, the Judge revealed that an Alternative Dispute Resolution Centre was established but regretted the poor use of the ADR Centre by litigants and their lawyers.
He promised to make the work environment more conducive for Judges, supporting staff, and the entire workforce.
Speaking on the closure of Owerri division of the court, Justice Kanyip was emphatic the decision would be reversed only when the safety of the Judges and workers is guaranteed.
He lamented that the Court has not yet received the security guarantee requested from some quarters but promised to look into the pleadings of the Nigeria Bar Association NBA in the matter.
The Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, represented by the Head, Civil Appeals, Federal Ministry of Justice, Tijani Gazali (SAN), commended the NICN for putting the nation’s interest above other considerations in its handling of the dispute between it and the Academic Staff Union of Universities.
The Minister said 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 to lead the fight to ensure that state governments comply with a constitutional provision guaranteeing financial autonomy for the judiciary.
The AGF said, “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 of 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.”