The National Industrial Court of Nigeria, NICN, celebrated its first legal year on Monday, 42 years after its establishment.
While launching the court’s 2020/2021 legal year, President Justice Benedict Kanyip announced that there are currently 6, 095 cases pending on its docket. He named Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, and Ibadan as the cities with the most cases, saying that the number of cases filed had decreased due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Prior to the COVID-19 lockdown, to be specific, as at 13 March 2020, I had called for the figures of pending cases in Court. The figures revealed that the Court had 6, 596 cases in its docket across the country, with Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Ibadan leading in that order in terms of the caseload.
“Today, the total number of cases that are pending are 6,095. This means that 501 cases were disposed of between 13 March and 30 September 2020.
“COVID-19 did not allow for much filing if cases; but it did not stop the Court from sitting and disposing of cases.
“Judges of the Court, in line with the Practice Directions and Guidelines 2020, sat physically and virtually all through the COVID-19 lockdown, and took the opportunity to dispose of especially cases that were at address and judgement stages”, the NIC President added.
He lamented that litigants are uninterested in accessing the Alternative Dispute Resolution Center of the Court for resolving employment/labor conflicts.
“For instance, between 2019 and March 2020, litigants and their counsel agreed to only 66 cases being referred to the Center. Out of this figure, only 18 were settled.
“35 were not settled and so were returned to the courts that referred them in the first place.
“As at today, however, the figures show that in the last one year, the ADR Center of the Court received 20 matters for settlement, 9 of which were resolved; and of the remaining 11, six were not settled and so were returned to the Court that referred them to the ADR Center.
“The remaining 5 are still undergoing mediation/settlement.
The utilization of the ADR Center is thus one area we intend to take a closer look at if our policy thrust of shortening trial time is to be achieved.
“The present COVID-19 pandemic has even made it the more so as measures must be taken to reduce the interface between courts and the users of Court’s services. We believe that ADR will come in handy here”, Justice Kanyip stated.
Mr Abubakar Malami, SAN, Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, emphasised in his remarks at the ceremony that the NIC was established to handle particular problems aimed at promoting industrial harmony and enhancing peaceful coexistence among employers and labor employees.