The Role of National Industrial Court in the Settlement of Labour Disputes in Nigeria (A Case Study of Federal Industrial Court, Uyo)
The general objective of this study is to examine the role of national industrial court in the settlement of labour disputes in Nigeria by using Federal Industrial Court, Uyo as a case study. However, the specific objectives are:
- To understand the importance of the national industrial court to the labour union in Nigeria
- To determine the effectiveness of the mechanism of Trade Disputes Settlement in Nigeria.
- To find out the prospects of industrial relations in Nigeria
REVIEW OF RELATED LITERATURE
THE STATUS OF THE NATIONAL INDUSTRIAL COURT (NIC) BEFORE ITS AMENDMENT
The law (the Trade Dispute Act (TDA) Cap. 432 LPN 1990 that established the National Industrial Court made it difficult for the court to deliver judgement freely. Reviewing the state of the court in its inception, Kanyip (2007) enumerated some of the bottlenecks of the court that hindered its smooth operation to include:
- The court was not originally listed in the constitution.
- The National Industrial Court was the only court of law in the country where litigants could not on their own volition, except when activating the interpretation jurisdiction of the court, approach the court to ventilate their grievances, unless referred to the court by the Minister of Labour. The referral and other discretionary powers of the Minister of Labour over matters relating to the National Industrial Court meant that the influence of the Minister of Labour was overbearing, thereby calling to question the constitutional principle of separation of powers and the rule of law.
- The requirement of referral, other than interpretation disputes, worked in a manner that also precluded the court from hearing matters directly even when cases were transferred to the National Industrial Court by other courts.
- By Section 19 (4) of the Trade Dispute Act (TDA) 1990, the President of the court was expected to preside over all the sittings of the court. The implication of this is that, if for any reason, the president of the court was otherwise engaged, then the court will not be able to sit. For instance, when the court lost its President in 2002 as a result of illness, the court could not sit as no succeeding President was appointed for almost one year. V
- By provisions of Section 19 and 25 of the TDA 1990, the National Industrial Court was the only court of law with a dual system of appointing those who would adjudicate on matters before it. While the President of the court was appointed by the President of the country on the recommendation of the Federal Judicial Service Commission, the members of the court were appointed by the President of the country on the recommendation of the Minister of Labour. The effect of this appointment and recommendation of members by different bodies is that both the Labour Minister and the National Judicial Council have control over the court.
The implication of these provisions in determination of cases brought before the court had farreaching negative effect. For instance, in a suit filed by the Oyo State Chapter of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) against the Oyo State Government before the new status of the NIC, the contending labour issues brought before it could not be resolved speedily because the period for the determination of the case coincided with the time of the Court President’s ill-health and no other judge of the court could preside over the matter. Another case in point was an intra-union matter between factions of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), Enugu Branch in 2001. In a suit filed in by one of the factions to settle a grievance in the court, the court had to advice the parties to apply to the minister of labour who would now refer the matter to the court to be handled. After some bureaucratic procedures, when the matter finally returned to NIC, there was a serious breakdown of law and order by the disputants.
OBSTACLES OF THE COURT THAT NECESSITATED THE CHANGES
Before its present state, the National Industrial Court was faced with many challenges that hindered its smooth operation as a competent court to handle trade dispute matters. Adejumo (2007) highlighted some of these obstacles to include:
- The court was not specifically listed in Section 6 of the 1999 constitution. The situation called to question the status of the National Industrial Court as a superior court of record as was pointed at the conference of All Nigeria Judges in 2007;
- ii) The effect of Section 7 (3) of National Industrial Court Act 2006 implied that the mediation, conciliation and arbitration provisions under part I of the Trade Dispute Act (TDA) 1990 was still in operation;
- It was only the powers of the Minister of Labour to refer matters to the National Industrial Court under Section 13 and 16 of the TDA;
- There was the continuing debate as to the scope of the jurisdiction of the National Industrial Court especially within the context of exclusivity
- There existed in the country (Nigeria) a dual jurisprudence in the resolution of labour disputes.
THE NATIONAL INDUSTRIAL COURT ACT (2006) AND ITS PROVISIONS
The new National Industrial Court (NIC) Act came into existence on the 14th day of June, 2006. This was the day the Act received approval and assent by the immediate past President of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. Adejumo (2007) in an explanatory note was of the view that the National Industrial Court Act establishes the National Industrial Court as a superior Court of record and confers jurisdiction on the court with respect to labour and industrial relations matters. The Act reestablishes the National Industrial Court to give it pre-eminence in the resolution of labour disputes. By the provisions of the Act, the National Industrial Court is taken out of the Trade Dispute Act (TDA) and given a separate enabling law of its own. In this regard, it has resolved some of the shortcomings identified earlier with the court under the TDA era. With the new arrangement, appointment of the President and Judges of the Court has been streamlined under one system to be in line with what obtains in the Federal High Court or the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, where the National Judicial Commission remains the recommending authority. With the provisions of the 2006 National Industrial Court Act, what obtains in the High Courts in respect of discipline, tenure, salaries and allowances, pension rights, status and powers equally obtains in the National Industrial Court (Sections 1-5 and 16-19 of the new National Industrial Court Act). Also, the court is no more tied down with the problem that goes with sitting. Prior to the enactment of the new Act, the President of the Court must preside over all the sittings of the court. But now, any of the Judges who is a legal practitioner can preside over the sittings of the court (Section 21(4) of the National Industrial Court Act). Under the new dispensation, the plethora of cases which held that the National Industrial Court cannot grant injunctive and declaratory orders is no longer applicable in the new law as contained in Section 16-19 of the National Industrial Court Act.
In this chapter, we described the research procedure for this study. A research methodology is a research process adopted or employed to systematically and scientifically present the results of a study to the research audience viz. a vis, the study beneficiaries.
Research designs are perceived to be an overall strategy adopted by the researcher whereby different components of the study are integrated in a logical manner to effectively address a research problem. In this study, the researcher employed the survey research design. This is due to the nature of the study whereby the opinion and views of people are sampled. According to Singleton & Straits, (2009), Survey research can use quantitative research strategies (e.g., using questionnaires with numerically rated items), qualitative research strategies (e.g., using open-ended questions), or both strategies (i.e., mixed methods). As it is often used to describe and explore human behaviour, surveys are therefore frequently used in social and psychological research.
POPULATION OF THE STUDY
According to Udoyen (2019), a study population is a group of elements or individuals as the case may be, who share similar characteristics. These similar features can include location, gender, age, sex or specific interest. The emphasis on study population is that it constitute of individuals or elements that are homogeneous in description.
This study was carried to examine the role of national industrial court in the settlement of labour disputes in Nigeria. Federal industrial court, Uyo form the population of the study.
DATA PRESENTATION AND ANALYSIS
This chapter presents the analysis of data derived through the questionnaire and key informant interview administered on the respondents in the study area. The analysis and interpretation were derived from the findings of the study. The data analysis depicts the simple frequency and percentage of the respondents as well as interpretation of the information gathered. A total of eighty (80) questionnaires were administered to respondents of which only seventy-seven (77) were returned and validated. This was due to irregular, incomplete and inappropriate responses to some questionnaire. For this study a total of 77 was validated for the analysis.
SUMMARY, CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATION
It is important to ascertain that the objective of this study was to ascertain the role of national industrial court in the settlement of labour disputes in Nigeria. In the preceding chapter, the relevant data collected for this study were presented, critically analyzed and appropriate interpretation given. In this chapter, certain recommendations made which in the opinion of the researcher will be of benefits in addressing the challenges of national industrial court in the settlement of labour disputes in Nigeria
This study was on the role of national industrial court in the settlement of labour disputes in Nigeria. Three objectives were raised which included; To understand the importance of the national industrial court to the labour union in Nigeria, to determine the effectiveness of the mechanism of Trade Disputes Settlement in Nigeria and to find out the prospects of industrial relations in Nigeria. A total of 77 responses were received and validated from the enrolled participants where all respondents were drawn from staffs of industrial court, Uyo. Hypothesis was tested using Chi-Square statistical tool (SPSS).
The presence of NIC in any country is very significant for labour dispute settlement and industrial peace and harmony. Its absence or/and inadequate provisions of the Act establishing it will spell doom for the industrial relations practice of that country. The most important reason for enacting the National Industrial Court Act in 2006 was as a result of the glaring inadequacies experienced in the implementation of the Trade Disputes Act of the 1976 and the Trade Dispute (Amendment) Act of 1992. These Acts governed the operation of National Industrial Court prior to June, 2006. The 1976 Act glaringly fused the functions of the Industrial Arbitration Panel (IAP) with that of the National Industrial Court. The provisions of Section 19 (4) of the Trade Dispute Act (TDA) 1990 where the President of the court was expected to preside over all the sittings of the court was very injurious to the dispensation of justice by the court. Presently, following the new National Industrial Court Act 2006, any judge of the National Industrial Court can preside over a case in the absence of the court’s president. This has removed the bottleneck in the smooth running of the court
Many writers and the Courts are unanimous in their opinion that it is wrong for the National Industrial Court to be vested with such authority. They have however suggested an amendment to the Constitution or the National Industrial Court Act, 2006. In as much as it is agreed that there is need for such amendment so as to remove any form of doubt or ambiguity, it is recommended here that it will be better for the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court to adopt a purposeful and liberal interpretation of the provisions of the Constitution so as to achieve the fundamental aim of justice.
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