[Just In] Industrial Court Dismisses Suit against Rivers State Civil Service Commission for being timely barred
The Presiding Judge of the National Industrial Court, Portharcourt Judicial division, His Lordship, Hon. Justice Faustina Kola-Olalere has dismissed the case filed by Mr Alukwe Okpara against Rivers State Civil Service Commission and for being timely barred by the provision of section 16 of the Limitation Law of Rivers State.
The court held that the claimant’s action at hand is not maintainable as the limitation law leaves Mr Alukwe with a right of action that is dead in law and accordingly; no court of law including the National Industrial Court of Nigeria has jurisdiction to entertain it.
On August 24, 2017; the claimant sought against the defendants for a declaration that the Claimant’s employment with the Rivers State Civil Service purportedly determined by the purported Suspension and Dismissal letters dated 21/9/2010 and 4/5/2011 respectively, are incompetent and therefore null, void and of no effect whatsoever and same constitutes unfair labour practices, demanding for reinstatement and payment of all salaries/allowances/entitlements, benefits and perks attached to his office from the month of August 2010 till date among others.
The defendants filed a motion on notice pursuant to Public Officers Protection Act, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria and Section 16 of The Limitation Law (Cap 80) Laws of Rivers State of Nigeria praying for an Order dismissing the suit for lacks of jurisdiction to entertain same on the ground that the cause of action in this suit accrued on 4th May 2011 but the Originating processes were filed 28th day of August, 2017 and ought to have been sued within three (3) months from the date of the cause of action.
Further that by virtue of the Limitation Laws of Rivers State, actions based on contracts of employment can only be commenced within five (5) years of the accrual of a cause of action and also that failure to affix stamp/seal on Court process filed is incompetent.
In opposition, Counsel submitted that the cases involving breaches of contract fall within the exceptions to the applicability of the provision of the Public Officers’ Protection Act/Law, and maintained that the absence of the said stamp/seal in the presence of the proof of evidence of payment for same, as in the instant case, can only render the said processes irregular, which can be cured and/or corrected by a mere application made to the court by the affected party.
In his point of reply, defendant went on that although the claimant initially filed his case in the State High Court he later withdrew in 2013 when he found out that that Court had no jurisdiction. He continued that after the withdrawal, the claimant did not take positive steps to file this case until August 2017. Counsel maintained that the time that this cause of action accrued did not stop running when he withdrew his suit from the High Court urged the court to so hold.
Delivering the ruling, the presiding Judge, Justice Kola-Olalere held that failure of the claimant/respondent to affix his counsel’s stamp and seal on the initiating processes, in this case, is not fundamental; neither is it fatal to his case and further held that these initiating processes before the court are competent as filed.
“I hold that section 2(a) of the Public Officers Protection Act is not applicable to the case at hand. Therefore, I further hold that the respondent’s case is not barred by the provision of section 2(a) of the Public Officers Protection Act.
“Because the cause of action being complained of here accrued in Rivers State Civil Service and the parties are in the State, I find and hold that this Limitation Law is applicable to this case. I have held in paragraph 22 of this Ruling that the cause of action in this case accrued on May 4, 2011. In paragraph 23 of this Ruling, I also held that this action was commenced in this Court on August 24, 2017. From the time of accrual of this cause of action on May 4, 2011 to the time of its filing on August 24, 2017, is a period of six years, three months and twenty days. This is clearly outside the five years period within which the case can be initiated in Court by virtue of the provision of section 16 of the Limitation Law of Rivers State.
In all, the court held that the action is barred by the provision of section 16 of the Limitation Law of Rivers State and that the Court has no jurisdiction to hear and determine the matter and it was dismissed accordingly.