The fate of more than 200 former workers of the Baker Hughes Nigeria Limited is now hanging on the balance following the death of Justice Ibrahim Awal, the judge of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) sitting in Port Harcourt, who was handling the N12 billion case involving them.
Our reporter gathered that Justice Awal died on Monday, February 27, 2018, barely five days to the date he was to rule on the suit between the ex-oil workers and the CEO of Baker Hughes Incorporated, Mr. Martin Craighead, Baker Hughes Incorporated and Baker Hughes Company Nigeria Limited, on alleged unlawful disengagement by the company without commensurate severance package.
Barr. George Ogara, counsel to the ex-workers of the company, had filed an injunction asking the court to prevail on the American oil servicing firm to pay a total sum of N12 billion as redundancy benefits and compensation to the disengaged workers, and that the money should be paid into the court’s bank account.
Mr. Harry Enoch, spokesperson of the aggrieved ex-employees, who expressed sadness over the demise of the late judge, whom he described as a man filled with knowledge, said the Nigerian Judiciary has lost a gem.
Enoch explained that they (ex-oil workers) have been briefed by Barr. George Ogara, their lawyer, that the case would be re-assign to judges.
He said, “We were thrown into shock on the news of the demise of Justice Ibrahim Awal. As humans, we feel sad over his death, especially because our case is involved.
“We are very much worried over the delay which the process of re-assigning of the case would cause; so many of us are tensed right now because we have waited for so long, remember this case started in January 2017 in Yenegoa, then Enugu before we came to Port Harcourt, it is over a year now.
“Industrial disputes are not supposed to last more than six to nine months.”
The aggrieved ex-oil workers also appealed to the President of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria, to speed up the process on the re-assigning of the case to enable them get justice as soon as possible.
Enoch, however, expressed optimism that whoever that would take over the case would give them justice, since the judiciary remained the last hope of the common man.
“We are appealing to the President of the NICN, who assign cases, to re-assign the case as quickly as possible.
“We pray and we hope that another Judge that would take over our case would be like Justice Awal or even better,” the ex-Baker Hughes employees said.