His Lordship, Hon. Justice Babatunde Adejumo, OFR –President of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria made this remark during an interview with News Agency of Nigeria, Barristerng.com Journalist recently in his office.
Read from the excerpt below;
My lord, With the policies you have introduced so far, by the time you retire, would there be a continuation?
Yes! It must. The number 2, we have been together for 17 years now here, he knows everything here, I have transferred him from Lagos to Abuja so that he can understand those administrative aspects of what I’m doing here so that nothing will be strange to him by the time he takes over.
QUESTION: Sir, it is assumed or let us believes that NIC is an employer of labour, did you agree with that assumption?
No! It is not. It is a court.
But you have personnel working here?
It is the FJSC that employs for us. We cannot say we are an employer of labour, the employer of labor is the federal judicial service commission but they have delegated some of their powers to every court to employ for only lower cadre between levels 1 to 6.
Sir, why I’m asking is that, have you had an instance where you had an industrial dispute within?
And where does it go to?
Since I came here, I made sure that no staff between levels 1 and 6 was sacked. It is a deliberate policy. I would rather convert it to loss of promotion or loss of increment because once you terminate one employee, 5 people will suffer out of 10, it depends.
That is what we are thought by the ILO to consider the effect of our action and inaction in court on the larger society. That is why at times when the trade unions are fighting, we say go back to work. You cannot say they should strike or not to work.
If employees who are in the medical field should go for strike, many people would die, if the bankers are fighting; a lot of people will not be able to take their monies to bank and would give room for armed robbers to visit them in their homes, and if you are at the marketplace and they don’t open the market, not everybody will have food in his or her house.
So, it is a deliberate policy that we don’t sack anyhow, but that does not mean we do not sack. But to answer your question on, “where do they go?” Assuming it happens, it may happen, you will still come to National Industrial Court.
You will serve as a Judge in your own case?
No! I am the chief executive here, every judge is not a chief executive and once cases are assigned for determination, they are under Oath to do justice without fear or favor, ill will or affection.
Even if someone has a case against NJC, I cannot take the case. If FJSC has the case, I cannot take it because I’m a member of the FJSC. For instance, if my judge, has a problem with FJSC now, and he asked to go and he is coming to us, I will not be the one to hear the matter. What I do and the principle I used once cases are filed, I look at the case, look at the names of the parties and look for judges who are not from that particular area.
Here, we don’t just sack, if we are discouraging people from sacking anyhow, we too should not sack anyhow, but we are the court, the law says the issue of employment shall be of the court, where will it go? That is why I told the admin officers, the C.R that please when you are recommending a dismissal, know that these people if they are sacked, we are the court and what will the public say? Will they not say we sack workers and how will they get justice.
The law says, if you don’t come to work continuously for 7 days, without genuine excuse, it is dismissal. But I must know why you are not coming. You cannot tell me that you are not well and you couldn’t phone, you couldn’t send any message, and you didn’t go to the hospital then it means you want to be lazy. I will warn you, ask them, I don’t sack and I don’t deny you promotion.
I will tell you about my background that If I don’t behave well, I won’t be here. I was a shoemaker, a warder, a teacher, an administrator at the Supreme Court. I talk to them, ask them. When you see me going with my staff, you’ll think we are colleagues. Even if you want to board my car, you are free to come to me and tell me your problem. No protocol like don’t go to ‘Oga’, how do I know their problems if they don’t come to me and table their problems, where will they go?
It is only when you are going out of your boundary that I will tell you NO! I don’t encourage unfairness, no sexual harassment, no depression, no bullying, and you cannot be rude to your senior, they know I won’t take it.
We have not been having serious cases that warrant dismissal of our staff, except a few scenarios of those who were sacked by the FJSC for forging a certificate, etc.
Some staffs may be doing funny things in court, when you see it, you must let them know, the aim is not to destroy the institution but for correction, sacking alone is not the solution.
You know how many numbers of your relations you feed; you cannot spend 10% of your salary on yourself alone not in Nigeria alone, once you get above a particular level you are slaving for people because you cannot spend 10% of your salary on yourself alone. Today, I know how much I have spent and I have not spent 5,000 on myself but I know I have spent on people, it means I’m slaving for people who are not my children in any way, so that is our system in Africa, in Nigeria we are brothers. Once someone loses his job it is not that person alone, a lot and that is why we go into it to make sure if there is an alternative way of settling it.
To be continue…