Gov. El-Rufai’s comment on Industrial Court is erroneous, beer parlour

By Fatai Abiodun

 

The 3rd alteration to the 1999 Nigeria Constitution gives room to the establishment of the National Industrial Court as a superior court of record.

Anyone who clearly understands the rigorous ways of amending the constitution will appreciate the reason of the Executive, National Assembly and the aims of the founding fathers in establishing the court as a superior court of record to adjudicate on issues arising from labour and employment issues.

By virtue of section 254(c), the Industrial court has exclusive jurisdiction in civil causes and matters relating to or connected with any labour, employment, trade unions, industrial relations and matters arising from workplace, the conditions of service, including health, safety, welfare of labour, employee, worker and matter incidental thereto or connected therewith.

In the statement credited to the Gov. of Kaduna State, Mallam El-Rufai that one of the biggest mistakes Nigeria made was setting up the National Industrial Court, he cited instances where the court allegedly freed people accused of corruption.

He added that In Kaduna State, the corruption perception is much lower than in other states and they have sacked those that were found to be fiddling with public funds and the court freed people accused of corruption.

On whether the position of the Gov. El-Rufai on Industrial Court is true, it’s important to state unequivocally that the jurisdiction of the court does not involve trying an employee for corruption and the court have reiterated that nothing is illegal for an employer to ask an employee to proceed on suspension pending the conclusion of an alleged investigation.

The only concern of the court is ensuring that the rule of law in sacking or determining the employment of an employee follows the due process of law, as emotions and sentiments have nothing to do with the court of law.

The Industrial Court has lost count of many cases dismissed on employment termination for lacking merit and validated many employment terminations and dismissals. I enjoy Gov. El-Rufai to always get his facts clear before rushing to the media. See www.nicnadr.gov.ng to read more about the adjudication stories.

The statement credited to his Excellency, Gov-El-Rufai is not excellent and lacks any iota of reason. The court that lacks jurisdiction and powers to try corruption cases is now being accused of freeing people accused of corruption. Does that correlate? No. This type of accusation is what Justice Galadima would describe as a beer parlour.

The oppressed and downtrodden who never believe in getting justice have found succour in the impartiality of the court in giving justice. El-Rufai should know that in future, one of his offspring would still need the court to fight for his or her right as no one rules forever. The duty of the court is to give substantial justice and nothing more.

How does one describe the attack on the best superior court in Nigeria in terms of the quality of judgments and technological innovations that reflect what justice is truly about?

One of the proponents of the theory of law, Marcus Ceciro opined that any law that conflicts with reason is null and void and an unjust law is no law. The establishment of the Industrial Court as a specialized one is not in conflict with reason and can never be a mistake as Gov. Rufai erroneously said because the essence of establishing the court is greatly manifesting in the lives of the justice seekers.

Is Gov. El-Rufai saying the Senate, the House of Representatives and the States House of Assembly that voted in support of the establishment of the court do not have the sense or the then President Goodluck Jonathan that signed the bill is not with his brain?

Recalling from what the good men of the Society have said about the Court in recent times, the Immediate Past National President of the prestigious Nigerian Bar Association, Olumide Akpata Esq had expressed during one of his presentations:

“Let me confess that the National Industrial Court remains a model-Court in many respects with regards to the approach of the Court to its Constitutional responsibilities and the professionalism showed by its staff in matters of case management, correspondence with Counsel and litigants and the discipline brought to bear in the aesthetics and general outlook of the Court across its various divisions.”

The Attorney General of the Federation and Hon. Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN also expressed thus:

“National Industrial Court has been contributing positively and effectively to the resolution of trade disputes and industrial relations matters in the Country.”

The Life Bencher, Adegboyega Awomolo SAN also stated that;

“The recent timely judicial interventions of this Court in Industrial disputes all over the Country have justified the wisdom in creating the Court as a specialized Court.”

Relying on the above submissions, is Gov. El-Rufai claiming to know better than these people? No. With due respect, it’s either El-Rufai has lost touch with reality or playing politics with the truth. The Governor must be reminded that the court of law is not an opposition party.

It’s easy for one to see many of the cases of alleged satanic and indiscriminate termination of employment without recourse to the rule of law in Kaduna state and the Court has signified through judgments that it would forever remain on the side of justice.

The Hon. President of the National Industrial Court, Hon. Justice Benedict Kanyip, PhD, OFR has reiterated in many fora that the court will never cease to stress that an employer cannot treat an employee shabbily and expect a pat on the back from the Court.

It’s important to educate Gov. Elrufai that there is no correlation between Morality and Law, the Supreme Court has stated over and over that the Court is for espousing the law and not a place for sentiments and that sentiments command no place in judicial adjudication.

One of the erudite jurists of all time, Per Niki Tobi also expressed that where there is no right or the thing done is illegal, the purity of the motive or magnanimity of the act done will not alter the legal consequence.

The Governor of Kaduna State needs to separate the office of the Attorney General from other portfolios. The establishment of the office of the Attorney General is not for window dressing but to avoid committing this form of mistake. Your Excellency Sir, your mathematics on rule of law is not mathing, and when it comes to the issues concerning the judiciary, always seek tutorials from your attorney general before rushing to the media.

The erudition and judicial acumen of the Industrial Court judges to stand on the path of law cannot be defeated let alone by a mere beer-parlour assertion, and posterity will be kind to My Lords for their sacrifices in correcting wrongs in the society.

In a sane society, where the NBA knows their onions, the governor should have been shown what it means to attack the judiciary on erroneous assertion. The vituperation of the Governor on erroneous thought has justified the need to train the governors on the separation of powers. The Industrial Court establishment is not for skit-making but for serious adjudication of justice.

Fatai Abiodun, a Public Affairs Analyst writes from Abuja


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