1.1. BACKGROUND TO STUDY
The National Industrial Court, was established in 1976, by virtue of the Trade Disputes Decree No. 7 of 1976 (hereinafter referred to as the TDA) which, Decree was later amended by the Trade Disputes (Amendment) Act 1992. Later, it was included as Cap 432 in the 1990 edition of the laws of the Federation of Nigeria with jurisdiction to settle trade disputes, the interpretation of collective agreements and matters connected therewith.
There were many obvious and identifiable lapses in the status, powers and jurisdiction of the NIC then that impacted negatively on its operations. The first, being the fact that, neither the 1979 nor the 1999 Constitution included the NIC as one of the courts in the country. Granted that section 19(2) of the TDA1990, which was inserted by Decree 47 of 1992 provided that, the NIC shall be a superior court of record. Lawyers and litigants disregarded these provisions by asking the Federal High Court to judicially review decisions reached at the NIC in a number of cases. The second is the referral requirement in commencing proceedings in the NIC which, means that, only the Minister of labour could initiate a case in the court in its original jurisdiction by way of referrals. The President of the NIC was required to preside over all the sittings of the Court. The practical effect of this was that adjudication of cases was totally dependent on the discretion and availability of the President. This means that, whenever, for any reason, the President was unable to sit, even if the Court could form a quorum, the case must be adjourned. The full import of this anomaly was brought to the fore in 2002 when the Court lost its President. For almost a year, the Court could not sit as a successor was not appointed.
There was also the problem of dual procedures for the appointment of the President and other Judges of the Court. The NIC was the only Court then in the country with dual control over the mode of appointment of its judges, the President of Nigeria appoints its President on the recommendation of the Federal Judicial Service Commission while the other members were appointed by the President of Nigeria on the recommendation of the Minister of Labour.
THE NATIONAL INDUSTRIAL COURT (HEREINAFTER REFERRED TO AS THE NIC)