By Bode Famose

On memorable day like today, May 1, 2017 when workers all over the world are celebrating the International Workers Day, it is necessary to remember institutions and icons who have contributed to sustenance of Industrial Harmony in Nigeria. One of such is the National Industrial Court of Nigeria in the contemporary dispensation under the President of the Court, Justice Babatunde Adejumo, OFR.

Suffice to say that one of the critical factors in attainment of sustainable industrialization and socio economic development of a sovereign state is the presence of a specialized dispute settlement mechanism to tackle disputes connected with employment, labour and industrial relations.

This is because labour and industrial disputes are economic in nature which should be dispensed with expeditiously to forestall negative impact on the economic health of the Nation. The regular courts which were already saddled with enough responsibilities should be spared the additional duties/burden of handling labor and industrial cases moreso that the procedures of such non specialized courts are slow and cumbersome.

Making available for Nigeria and Nigerians the National Industrial Court as a Superior Court of record has made our nation a proud member in the comity of nations like Germany, South Africa, India and the United States that have established specialized labour courts with a view to ensuring that labour, employment and industrial relations disputes are settled without undue delay.

The constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Section. 254 (2 & 4) which provides that:
“notwithstanding anything to the contrary in this Constitution, the NIC shall have jurisdiction  and power to deal with any matter connected with or pertaining to the application of any international convention, treaty or protocol of which Nigeria has ratified relating to labour, employment, workplace, industrial relations matters connected therewith; and that the NIC shall have and exercise jurisdiction and powers to entertain any application for the enforcement of the award, decision, ruling or order made by an arbitral tribunal or commission, administrative body, or board of inquiry relating to , connected with, arising from or pertaining to any matter of which the NIC has the jurisdiction to entertain”
As can be seen from the items under its “exclusive judicial list“, the NIC has gravitated from being a court of resolution of trade, labour or industrial dispute to a court that has jurisdiction to entertain anything labour, employment or industrial  matters, including child labour, child abuse, and human trafficking; and sexual harassment at the workplace! More than that, in a supposed Federation, where increasingly, emphasis is being placed on true federalism and devolution of powers, all matters relating to labour, employment or industrial relations, be they in the public sector across the Country (local, state or federal) or in the private sector, have now been unitarily consolidated under the jurisdiction of the NIC.
National Industrial Court of Nigeria (Civil Procedure) Rules, 2017 made on the 6th day of December 2016 came into effect on the 5th day of January 2017. The new rules contain innovative provisions targeted at achieving speedy and effective dispensing of justice. By these rules, the National Industrial Court of Nigeria has upped the bar when it comes to speedy administration of justice at less pains, expense and rigours to litigants and lawyers alike.

Prior to the emergence of the NIC Civil Procedure Rules, the National Industrial Court, on 18th December 2015, inaugurated the NIC Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Instrument & Rules 2015. As the mandate of the National Industrial Court is to ensure labour and Industrial Peace, by virtue of its jurisdiction in section 254c of the 1999 Constitution, the NIC ADR Instrument and Rules is to assist parties in disputes to collaborate towards settling their disputes and arriving at win win or mutually acceptable agreement in less costly, speedy and efficient manner. This is with the aim of promoting economic development and cohesive interpersonal rapport and conducive work environment with the dynamics of employer / employee relationship.

Also, the National Industrial Court engages today’s world best practices in creating diverse platforms for easy and quick access for Nigerians. The NIC APPS which can be downloaded easily on androids and smart phones and other electronic devices serve as pathfinder for quick access to the Court.
It is important that stakeholders especially lawyers and litigants are made to be aware of not just the existence of these revolutionary rules but the purpose for which the rules
were made.

The National Industrial Court was established by the General Olusegun Obasanjo administration as a military Head of State in 1976. It was blessed with a proactive, focused and visionary leadership seen in Justice Babatunde Adejumo OFR who in 2003 became the President of the Court.

He took the Court from virtually nowhere to the level of a Superior Court of Record. The Court which operated in one duplex in Lagos for 25 years (1976-2003) has established eight (8) Divisions across the Nation. The Court is accessible in all the States of the Federation.

On behalf of the Director- General of the National Orientation Agency (NOA) Dr Garba Abari, I wish all workers in Ondo State and in Nigeria as a whole, Happy 2017 International Workers Day Celebrations. I also wish Justice Babatunde Adejumo OFR, many more quantum leaps in service and beyond.

BODE FAMOSE
ONDO STATE DIRECTOR
NATIONAL ORIENTATION AGENCY