The Presiding Judge of the National Industrial Court, Portharcourt Judicial division, His Lordship, Hon. Justice Faustina Kola-Olalere in a ruling delivered today Thursday 20th June 2019 has struck-out the reliefs brought against Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company for lack of jurisdiction.
The court held that the contract between Gray Instant Solutions Limited- claimant and Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company - 2nd defendant is the contract for service as opposed to contract of service or contract of employment that the Court has jurisdiction to handle by virtue of the provisions of section 254C (1) of the Constitution of the FRN, 1999 (As Amended).
In summary, the claimant sued the defendants and sought among others for A Declaration that Clause 11(a) on Confidentiality, Clause 11(b) on Non-Solicitation Agreement and Clause 11(c) on Non-Recruit Agreement as stated in the Contract of Employment between the Claimant and Mrs. Julie Idahosa -1st Defendant dated 22 May 2017 are still valid and binding on the 1st Defendant.
An Order of perpetual Injunction restraining the 2nd Defendant, its officers, agents, employees or any other person natural or artificial whomsoever claiming or acting through the 2nd Defendant from giving the 1st Defendant the cash collection business as covered by the AGREEMENT.
On December 3, 2018 counsel to the PEDC -2nd defendant filed a notice of Preliminary Objection to strike out the suit against the 2ndDefendant/Applicant for want of jurisdiction and to dismiss the suit for being an abuse of court process.
Counsel submitted that by the statement of facts and the reliefs sought by the claimant merely seeks to indirectly enforce the terms of its payment collection services Agreement with the 2nd Defendant as opposed to the Contract of Employment with Mrs. Julie Idahosa the 1st Defendant.
Counsel further submitted that the claims against the 2nd Defendant cannot be maintained before this Court, considering the provisions of sections 254C & 272 of the 1999 Constitution as Amended that the subject matter is firmly reserved for the High Court of a State.
In reply, counsel to the claimant maintained that the injunctions sought are simply an enforcement of the rights of the Claimant/Respondent under the 1st+ Defendant/Respondent’s contract of employment that the 2nd Defendant/Applicant is a necessary party and that the suit cannot be decided without it being a party to it.
Finally on this issue, counsel submitted that this Court does not have the power to strike out this suit since the mere allegation is that it should have been instituted at the High Court, but to transfer the case to the appropriate Court, relying on Section 24 (2) of the National Industrial Court Act, 2006.
After careful evaluation of the submissions of both counsel, the presiding Judge, Hon. Justice Faustina Kola-Olalere held that the contract between the claimant and the 2nd defendant is the contract for service as opposed to contract of service or contract of employment that the Court has jurisdiction to handle by virtue of the provisions of section 254C (1) of the Constitution of the FRN, 1999 (As Amended).
“Conversely, I find that this Court does not have jurisdiction to adjudicate on this contract for service between the claimant and the 2nd defendant termed “the Agreement” and I so hold.
“Additionally, I hold that there is no employment relationship between the claimant and the 2nd defendant so as to make the 2nd defendant a proper party in this case and before this Court.
“Consequently, the vii & viii reliefs of the claimant against the 2nd defendant are accordingly struck out for lack of jurisdiction.
“Likewise, the name of the 2nd defendant, Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company is struck out as a party in this case for absence of an enforceable cause of action against it from the claimant before this Court.
Lastly, the court held that the filing of the case is not an abuse of Court process; neither is the 2nd defendant a necessary party to the suit. Thus, the 2nd prayer on the Preliminary Objection fails for lack of proof and it is accordingly dismissed.
The court ordered the claimant to pay N60,000.00 cost of action to the 2nd defendant.