The Role Of The National Industrial Court In Industrial Dispute Resolution In Nigeria Pt.1
I had to dig deep into historical perspectives, this has informed me to write briefly on “The Role – National Industrial Court in Dispute Resolution in Nigeria”.
I recently visited the National Industrial Court of Nigeria, Oyo located at Court Road, Off New Adeoyo State Hospital Road, Off Ring Road, GRA, South West, Ibadan, Oyo, and it motivated me to come up with this article.
Many people in Nigeria including some of our learned friends at the bar do not understand what NIC means or stands for according to the Act or the Rules of Court, many still believe that the court is still operating under the Trade Disputes Act as amended
This is a unique opportunity for us all to rub minds and be better informed about what NIC stands for, what it does and how it does. It is my hope that after perusing this article, we will be able to understand the trend of events as it is presently.
It becomes necessary to go a little bit into the historical background of the NIC under the Trade Disputes Act of 1972 as amended. This will give us the privilege of understandingthe journey the court has gone through before attaining its present height.
Section 20 of the Trade Disputes Act (TDA) Cap T8 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
’There shall be a National Industrial Court for Nigeria (in this part of this Act referred to as “the Court”) which shall have such jurisdiction and powers as are conferred on it by this or any other Act with respect to the settlement of trade disputes, the interpretation of collective agreements and matters connected therewith’
Under the Act, the membership of the Court comprised the President of the Court and four other members (in the Act referred to as “ordinary members”) all of whom shall be persons of good standing, to the knowledge of the Minister of Labour, well acquainted with employment conditions in Nigeria, and at least one of whom shall, to his satisfaction, have a competent knowledge of economics, industry and trade.
Prior to the establishment of the Act in 1976, in particular, prior to 1968, industrial relations law and practice was modeled on the non-interventionist and voluntary model of the British approach. The statutory machinery for the settlement of trade disputes was found in the Trade Disputes (Arbitration and Inquiry) Act. That Act, which was first enacted in 1941, gave power to the Minister of Labour to intervene by means of conciliation, formal inquiry and arbitration where negotiation had broken down. It had two notable feature which, in fact, might be regarded as drawbacks. First, it lied in the absolute discretion of the parties to decide whether or not they would avail themselves of the machinery provided.
The Minister could not compel them to accept his intervention. Thus, he could only appoint a conciliator upon the application of one of the parties. While he needed the consent of both parties to set up an arbitration tribunal.
Secondly, there were no permanent institutions laid down before which the disputing parties could go for the settlement of their labour disputes.
Instead, an ad hoc body, an arbitration panel had to be set up for a particular dispute and once it gave its decisions it became functus officio .
The year 1968 witnessed the beginning of the Civil War in Nigeria. It was therefore expedient during the state of emergency to make transitional provisions for the settlement of trade disputes arising within the period. So, the Trade Disputes (Emergency Provisions) Act No.21 of 1968 was enacted. It suspended the Trade Disputes (Arbitration and Inquiry) Act and gave to the Minister of Labour compulsory power of intervention in trade disputes while retaining the usual methods of conciliation, formal inquiry and arbitration. The requirement for consent of the parties before the Minister could act was abrogated so that he could resort to these methods without the consent of the parties to the disputes. The 1968 Act created a time table from the time that employers and workers became aware that a dispute existed to the time that a dispute was notified to the Minister and, within the discretionary powers conferred on him by the Act, to decide on what sort of action to take.
Mayowa Emmanuel Olukehinde Esq.