IN THE NATIONAL INDUSTRIAL COURT OF NIGERIA
IN THE ENUGU JUDICIAL DIVISION
HOLDEN AT ENUGU
BEFORE HIS LORDSHIP: HON. JUSTICE O.O. AROWOSEGBE
DATE: TUESDAY JULY 05, 2022 SUIT NO. NICN/EN/09/2021
MR. NWAFOR CHINEDU JONATHAN…………………CLAIMANT
MASTERS ENERGY OIL & GAS LTD…………………DEFENDANT
1. C. N. OKORO – FOR THE CLAIMANT.
2. B. I. NDUKA – FOR THE DEFENDANT.
COMPPLAINT commenced this suit April 01, 2021. In the Statement of Facts [wrongly tagged “Statement of Claim”], the following reliefs were set out in paragraph 15 thereof:
i. A declaration that the plaintiff is entitled to his accrued gratuity/entitlement having worked for the defendant Company for over 5 years before resignation.
ii. An Order for the immediate payment of the sum of N1,500,000 (One Million Five Hundred Thousand) being the plaintiff’s accrued gratuity/entitlement for the 5 years of service at the rate of 300,000.00 per year [sic]
iii. 25% interest per annum from 2018 when the defendant failed and refused to pay the plaintiff his entitlements notwithstanding the letter of 15th November 2017 and repeated demand notices until the judgment sum fully liquidated [sic]
iv. N… million as general damages.
The defendant did not file defence. Let me move to summary of proceedings and evidence led at trial.
SUMMARY OF PROCEEDINGS
The case came up first before me on 27th October 2021; and was adjourned for mention. It came up again on 1st December 2021 and, the erudite counsel to the claimant [C.N. OKORO] informed the Court, in the absence of both the defendant and counsel, of moves to settle amicably and, the case was accordingly adjourned for Report of Settlement [RS]. It further came up 11th January 2022 for RS and was further adjourned for RS. It subsequently came up next 10th March 2022 for further RS. On this date, the defence counsel [E.I. NDUKA] was however in Court and, the case was further adjourned for RS.
The next date was 24th March 2022. On this date, the erudite counsel to the claimant informed the Court that, the matter had been settled and, the Terms of Settlement [TS] filed, but sought leave to effect correction on the TS, which the Court refused and ordered that, the TS must be corrected before filing and refiled anew. The defence counsel was present too. And for this reason, the case was further adjourned for RS again. It now came up for the final time on 7th June 2022.
On this date, C. N. OKORO, of counsel to the claimant informed the Court that, they had settled and filed the TS dated 18/02/2022 on the 27/05/2022. Thereafter, the erudite claimant’s counsel adopted the TS and, urged the Court to make it her judgment on this suit. Thereafter, the erudite defence counsel agreed that, that was the correct position of things and, proceeded too, to adopt the same TS; and thereafter, the case was adjourned to July 5, 2022 for judgment. I ought ordinarily to move now to the reproduction of the TS verbatim. But I cannot for reasons to be offered immediately hereunder. Instead, I proceed to give my decision.
COURT’S DECISION AND THE RATIONES DECIDENDI
I observed that, the said TS had no date it was executed. The space for date of execution was left vacant. Looking at it more critically, I observed that, it was the same TS, which the erudite claimant’s counsel had originally sought to amend by supplying the date on 24th March and, the Court declined and ordered the parties to file the correct process before the Court, which the very same erudite counsel moved again without making reference to the fact that, there was an initial order that, a corrected version be filed. This is evident from the fact that, the TS was filed 18/02/2022 while the penultimate time the matter came up, when the oral application of claimant’s counsel was turned down, was 24th March 2022, the erudite claimant’s counsel could only have referred to it and, in any case, that is the one he referred to at the adoption and, no other one is in the file.
In view of the above, it is not necessary for me to summarise the TS because, without the date it took effect as an agreement, the Court cannot enter it as its judgment. It must first be valid, as an agreement, before the Court can enter it as its judgment – see Amizu v. Nzeribe (1989) LPELR-20249 (CA), 26-28, C-B. And there has not been any evidence from the parties as to the effective date of the TS; and the counsel to the parties, not being in a position to give evidence in the matter, cannot orally amend the TS to supply the effective date, which was not supplied by the parties themselves and, even if they can, the effective date must be given on oath, by they being sworn as witnesses in the matter. And on the penultimate date, as well as the date the defective TS was adopted, the parties were not in Court to supply the evidence of the effective date of the TS. Thus, as it is, the TS contravene an essential requirement of a valid agreement.
Arising therefore, the TS is liable to be struck out for being incompetent and, it is accordingly hereby struck. Having struck it out, the suit cannot be left hanging in the Court’s docket. The suit too, is liable to be struck out for want of diligent prosecution and, it is accordingly struck too.
Judgment is accordingly entered today Tuesday the 5th day of July 2022 under the hand of the presiding judge.
HON. JUSTICE Oluwakayode Ojo AROWOSEGBE
NATIONAL INDUSTRIAL COURT OF NIGERIA