A CRITICAL APPRAISAL OF THE NATIONAL INDUSTRIAL COURT ACT 2006 UNDER THE NIGERIAN CONSTITUTION

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A CRITICAL APPRAISAL OF THE NATIONAL INDUSTRIAL COURT ACT 2006 UNDER THE NIGERIAN CONSTITUTION

ABSTRACT

 

The National Industrial Court (hereinafter referred to as the NIC) was established in 1976 by the Trade Disputes Decree No 7 of 1976 with jurisdiction to settle trade disputes, the interpretation of collective agreements and matters connected therewith. There were identifiable lapses in the status, powers and jurisdiction of the NIC that impacted negatively on its operations; the jurisdiction of the Court which was expressed to be exclusive was shared with the Federal and State High Courts, the Court lacked competence to make declarations and orders of injunction and thus seen as an inferior court. This state of affairs gave impetus to the enactment of the National Industrial Court Act 2006 (hereinafter called the NIC Act 2006) which granted the NIC a superior court status, with exclusive civil jurisdiction to deal with labour and other related matters. This NIC Act 2006 generated a lot of controversies in terms  of the exclusive jurisdiction and superior court status granted the Court by the Act, in view of the constitutional provisions thereof. Consequently, the Constitution (Third Alteration) Act 2010 was enacted to remedy the situation. The perceived problem that motivated this study is the heated controversy generated by the inadequacies of the NIC Act 2006.The objective of this work is to ascertain whether the Constitution Third Alteration Act 2010 addressed those inadequacies of the NIC Act 2006 and achieved the goal of institutionalizing the NIC as a specialised court for the resolution of labour labour disputes and other related matters, employment, industrial relations, and other related matters. The method employed was to examine the provisions of the NIC Act 2006 and that of the Constitution (Third) Alteration Act 2010. This work found out that though the Constitution (Third) Alteration Act 2010 corrected some of the lapses of the NIC Act 2006 and expanded the jurisdiction of the NIC, there still exist loopholes identified among others to include the inadequate Constitution of the NIC by at least 13 (thirteen) judges and lack of prescription by an Act of the National Assembly for appeals to the Court of Appeal over its decisions. It was recommended among others that the NIC should be constituted of not less than 37 Judges and that the National Assembly should make a prescription for appeals to the Court of Appeal from the decisions of the NIC.

LAW EASY AND DISSERTATIONS ON NATIONAL INDUSTRIAL COURT ACT 2006

CHAPTER ONE

GENERAL INTRODUCTION

1.1.     BACKGROUND TO STUDY

 

The National Industrial Court, was established in 1976, by virtue of the Trade Disputes Decree No. 7 of 1976 (hereinafter referred to as the TDA) which, Decree was later amended by the Trade Disputes (Amendment) Act 1992.1 Later, it was included as Cap 432 in the 1990 edition of the laws of the Federation of Nigeria with jurisdiction to settle trade disputes, the interpretation of collective agreements and matters connected therewith.2

 

There were many obvious and identifiable lapses in the status, powers and jurisdiction of the NIC then that impacted negatively on its operations. The first, being the fact that, neither the 1979 nor the 1999 Constitution included the NIC as one of the courts in the country. Granted that section 19(2) of the TDA1990, which was inserted by Decree 47 of 1992 provided that, the NIC shall be a superior court of record. Lawyers and litigants disregarded these provisions by asking the Federal High Court to judicially review decisions reached at the NIC in a number of cases.3 The second is the referral requirement in commencing proceedings in the NIC which, means that, only the Minister of labour could initiate a case in the court in its original jurisdiction by way of referrals.4 The President of the NIC was required to preside over all theA CRITICAL APPRAISAL OF THE NATIONAL INDUSTRIAL COURT ACT 2006 UNDER THE NIGERIAN CONSTITUTION

sittings of the Court.5 The practical effect of this was that adjudication of cases was totally dependent on the discretion and availability of the President. This means that, whenever, for any reason, the President was unable to sit, even if the Court could form a quorum, the case must be adjourned. The full import of this anomaly was brought to the fore in 2002 when the Court lost its President. For almost a year, the Court could not sit as a successor was not appointed.6

There was also the problem of dual procedures for the appointment of the President and other Judges of the Court. The NIC was the only Court then in the country with dual control over the mode of appointment of its judges, the President of Nigeria appoints its President on the recommendation of the Federal Judicial Service Commission7 while the other members were appointed by the President of Nigeria on the recommendation of the Minister of Labour.8

Apart from the foregoing, there was also the problem of the extent and scope of the subject- matter jurisdiction of the NIC. Though, Decree No. 47 of 1992 seemed to have brought within the purview of the NIC inter and intra union disputes, the courts held that, for the NIC to have jurisdiction over inter and intra union disputes, the disputes must qualify as trade disputes.9 Case law also created a lot of problems for the NIC in that it was held that the NIC then could not grant declaratory and injunctive reliefs.10 The implication is that although, the TDA,ANALYSIS OF THE NATIONAL INDUSTRIAL COURT ACT 2006 UNDER THE NIGERIAN CONSTITUTION

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