A Lagos-based lawyer, Olumide Babalola, has asked the Federal High Court in Lagos to determine whether judgments of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria should be final.
He is contending that Section 243 (2)(3) of the 1999 Constitution, which limits the right to appeal judgments of the NIC, offends the principle of fair hearing provided for in Section 36 of the same Constitution.
He sued the Attorney-General of the Federation and the NIC President.
Babalola wants the court to determine “whether by the interpretation of the 1999 Constitution, the decision of the NIC on matters listed under Section 254(c) of the Constitution is final and should be so interpreted.”
He also wants the court to determine “whether the literal interpretation and application of Section 243 (2)(3) of the Third Alteration Act 2010 and the Constitution would not inflict untold hardship on parties affected by the decision of the NIC and continously violate litigants’ right to fair hearing as guaranteed by Section 36 of the Constitution.”
In a 12-paragragh supporting affidavit deposed to by himself, Babalola said he found “the said provision a bit draconian and contrary to the constitutionally guaranteed right to fair hearing.”
“Such constitutional provisions as Section 243(2)(3) of the 1999 Constitution, if interpreted literally with its implication, would constantly deprive Nigerian citizens their right to adequately ventilate their grievances through the hierachy of the courts.”
Babalola is urging the court to declare that “by virtue of Section 254(d)(i) of the 1999 Constitution, the NIC is a court of coordinate jurisdiction, which has same power as the state and federal high courts, hence the right of appeal from the NIC cannot be limited.”
He also wants the court to declare that “by virtue of Section 243 (2)(3) of the 1999 Constitution, the National Industrial Court’s decision is not final in respect of matters listed under Section 254(c) of the Constitution.”
But the NIC, through its lawyer, Chief Gani Adetola-Kaseem (SAN), has filed a preliminary objection, challenging Babalola’s locus standi to file the suit.
Adetola-Kaseem also argued that the NIC is not a juristic person and cannot be sued.
Besides, he described Babalola’s suit as one which “raises academic rather than live issues, contrary to the established principle that the court is established to deal with and resolve live rather than academic issues.”
The senior advocate said: “It is instructive that all the reliefs sought by the plaintiff are declaratory in nature and the plaintiff has sought no consequential order.
“It is also instructive that although the plaintiff’s summons is supported with an affidavit of 12 paragraphs, there is nothing in the said affidavit to suggests that this action arose from a live issue currently pending before the court or that the plaintiff has suffered or is at imminent risk of suffering any injury to himself or anyone else which this action is supposed to remedy.”
Justice Mohammed Idris has adjourned to November 13 for ruling on the preliminary objection.