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The Supreme Court is expected on June 30,
2017 to rule on the finality of the decisions of the National Industrial Court
of Nigeria (“NICN”).
  The apex court will
be making this decision in the cases of
 Mainstreet
Bank Ltd (now Skye Bank Limited) vs Victor Anaemen Iwu and Coca-Cola Nigeria
Limited vs Mrs. Titilayo Akinsanya which are currently before the court.

There is no gain saying the fact the third alteration
to the 1999 Constitution of  the Federal
Republic of Nigeria (CFRN 1999) has started a revolution at the NICN which has
given all stakeholders (judges, lawyers and litigants alike) an interesting
topic to debate on. Though the scope of our discuss will be limited to the
appealability of the decisions of the NICN, other areas in which the said
revolution has been witnessed are:
1. Jurisdiction: the court now has
exclusive jurisdiction in civil causes and matters relating   to   or   connected
  with
  industrial
  relations
  and
  matters
  arising
  from
workplace, the conditions of service and safety of workers and including
welfare of labour and matters incidental thereto or connected therewith; and
2. The   court   has   now   been   empowered
  to
  apply
  international
  labour
  treaties,
conventions and protocols and international practices in Labour.
As   earlier   stated   the   essence
  of
our   discuss will   be   limited
  to
 appealability   of   the decisions
of the NICN. By  virtue  of the Third  Alteration Act,  decisions of  the  NICN
 in  civil  suits
 that it  has original jurisdiction are  final. Appeals may only lie to the Court of Appeal
on issues bordering on fundamental human rights as provided for in chapter IV
of the CFRN 1999.
The court of Appeal has already interpreted
the law as it concerns this alteration. In Coca-cola Nig. Ltd. & 2 Ors v.
Mrs. Titilayo Akinsanya, the Court observed and held as follows:
“It is my considered view clear from the
positions reproduced above; that
the lower court though a superior court of
record is not in the same league
with the Federal High Court or State High
Courts against the backdrop of
appeals.   The   lower   court   is   clearly
  the
  only
  superior
  court
  of
  record
created   by   the   Constitution   whose   decisions
  can
  never
  be
  tested
  on
appeal  in the Supreme Court.”
The result of the foregoing  is  that
it  has created a  myriad of diverse opinions, with criticisms
here and there, especially as it concerns the right of an aggrieved person to appeal
the decision of court if dissatisfied.
NEED
FOR URGENCY IN LABOUR DISPUTES
There is no gainsaying the fact labour
matters ought to be finished with dispatch. It is often said that “there must
be an end to litigation” and the emphasis of this saying cannot be
overemphasized in labour matters. Labour matters often a involve former employee
whose daily earning is an issue central to the suit on the one side and an employer
whose management wants to dispense with the issues as soon as possible in order
to avoid the distraction often associated with litigation.
In Nigeria (prior to the third alteration)
there has been cases of retirees who sued their former employers for failure to
pay pensions, it is sad to say that a host of these senior citizens who mostly
fall within 65-75 years either die or are too old to enjoy the benefits of the
pension if eventually ordered to be paid by the court. The reason for this is
not farfetched, the matters are often tied on appeals (sometimes all the way to
the supreme court). The average case litigated from the High Court to the
Supreme Court in Nigeria
can take as long as 7-10 years.
COMPARATIVE
ANALYSIS WITH OTHER JURISDICTIONS (SOUTH AFRICA)
In   south  Africa  The
Labour   Court 
(which   is   similar   to  the   NICN),   deals   with labour law and   the
relationship  between  employer,  employee  and  trade  union,
in  particular cases arising under the Basic
Conditions of Employment Act (South Africa) the Labour
Relations Act and the Employment Equity Act.
Appeals from the Labour Court lie to the Labour
Appeal Court which has a status similar to the Supreme Court of Appeal. There
is no further appeal except on constitutional matters, in which case appeals
may be heard by the Constitutional Court, which is the final court in the land.
CONCLUSION
What is clear from the foregoing is the
fact the world is changing in terms of settlement of Labour and Industrial
disputes. Countries around the world have since realized the need   for   labour   matters
  to
  be
  completed
  with
  dispatch
  and
  have
  since
  created
specialized labour court with exclusive jurisdiction to handle labour and
employment related matters, with limited right of appeal.
Perhaps will one day have a NICN court of
appeal in Nigeria.

Busayo Adedeji 

Busayo
Adedeji 
is
an Associate in the corporate and commercial, corporate immigration, employment
and labour, banking and corporate finance practice group of Bloomfield Law
Practice; and advises multinational and local clients on matters such as
regulatory compliance, trade unions, labour and employment, dispute resolution
etc.

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