IN THE NATIONAL INDUSTRIAL COURT OF NIGERIA

IN THE LAGOS JUDICIAL DIVISION

HOLDEN AT LAGOS

BEFORE HIS LORDSHIP:  HONOURABLE JUSTCE S.A. YELWA

THIS 30TH DAY OF APRIL, 2024

 

SUIT NO. NICN/LA/423/2020

BETWEEN:

 MR IREDELE OYEDELE………………CLAIMANT/APPLICANT

AND

AND NOTORE CHEMICALS INDUSTRIES, PLC…………DEFENDANT/ RESP.

 

RULING:

By a Motion on Notice dated 15th February, 2024 and filed on the 19th February, 2024 which motion is brought pursuant to section 36(1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), Order 1 Rule 9 (1) of the National Industrial Court Civil (Procedure) Rules, 2017 and under the Inherent Jurisdiction of this Honorable Court.

In this motion the applicant prays this court basically for:

a.      An order of this court granting leave to the claimant to give his evidence during the hearing of this suit virtually by zoom, skype or Google meet internet application or by any other such modern communication device or method as may be approved by this Honorable court.

b.      And for such further order or orders as this court may deem fit to make in the circumstances.

While moving his application, learned counsel for the applicant argued that the application is supported by a 6 paragraphs affidavit deposed to by one Taiwo Owoeye, female, Christian, legal practitioner and Nigerian citizen of NO. 22, G.R.A Road, Sabo Sagamu, Ogun State.

 

1.     Counsel stated that the application is filed along with a written address of the same date with that of the application. Counsel adopted the written address as his oral argument and urged this court to grant this application.

2.      In opposition to the application, learned counsel for the defendant/Respondent submitted that he has filed 12 paragraphs counter- affidavit which is deposed to by a litigation secretary in their Law firm. Counsel- stated that he has filed a written address of the same date with the date of the counter-affidavit subsequently, counsel adopted the written address as his own oral argument before this court.

However, by way of adumbration, counsel canvassed further oral submission contending that the request in the application for a virtual hearing is not grantable as a matter of cause but that such application must have enough and convincing reasons in form of materials placed before this court for the court to exercise its discretion for the grant.

3.      Counsel submitted that there is no rule of this court giving right to a litigant to seek for this kind of application and therefore since there is no provision in the rules of this court, the application should be refused outrightly so that the claimant should attend sitting and

proceedings of this court physically for the hearing of the matter.

4.       By way of reply on points of law filed on 20/3/2024 upon which applicant counsel adopted the accompanying written address thereto as his oral further argument, counsel submitted that enough materials are provided in the facts in the supporting affidavit. Counsel contended that the documents for the trial is frontloaded to the written deposition and finally urged this court to discountenance the opposition and grant the application.

DECISION:

5.     I have carefully read all the processes filed by the parties in this matter. I have also listened to both counsel in their respective arguments and adumbrations on certain points. TO MY MIND, what this application entails is, it is seeking for the exercise of discretionary powers of this court to otherwise allow the sole witness /claimant who is oversea and out of the country/ Nigeria give evidence in his suit before this court virtually. That is to say in other way that the applicant is asking this court for a direction on how to conduct hearing in the absence of the physical appearance of the claimant who is oversea.

6.      The Respondent counsel contended while opposing the application that the applicant did not place materials to enable this court grant the prayers. I have painstakingly read the affidavit and the counter- affidavit as well as the submissions of counsel. I’m of the firm view that even though there is no rule in the procedural rules of this court warranting this kind of application, it is one that falls within the categories of matters that courts do not hesitate to allow.

7.      VIRTUAL proceedings as a matter of practice in this court could be rightly said to have received greater access to justice without delays. Virtual hearing was introduced in this court through its practice directions and guidelines for court sitting 2020 as a result of the CORVID-19. It was issued by the president of the NICN and commenced on the 18/5/2020. A significant docket of this court matters were attended to by virtual proceedings. The 1999 CFRN as amended did not provide any thing contrary to the use and practice of virtual proceedings since it has empowered the heads of our court to make rules on practice and procedure. So, the submissions of the respondent’s counsel against the this application is out of place. The SUPREME COURT has reiterated its approval for virtual hearing in the case of ANYAEBOSI .R .T BRISCOE LTD  (1987)3 NWLR PT 59 P 108 where it held that—” ….the judicial system in Nigeria should be allowed to benefit from the increased use of technology for greater access to justice, faster judicial processes without delay and increased judicial certainty……”

8.     I find merit in this application and same is hereby granted as prayed. Accordingly, leave is granted to the claimant to give his evidence during the hearing of this suit virtually by zoom, skype or Google meet internet application or by any other such modern communication device.

 

RULING IS ACCORDINGLY ENTERED.

 

……………………………………………………………………………..

Honourable Justice S.A.Yelwa

(JUDGE)