IN THE NATIONAL INDUSTRIAL COURT OF NIGERIA
HOLDEN AT MAKURDI
IN THE MAKURDI JUDICIAL DIVISION
BEFORE HIS LORDSHIP, HON. JUSTICE S.H. DANJIDDA
ON THE 5TH DAY OF APRIL, 2019 SUIT NO: NICN/MKD/30/2018
MR. ONYILO O. THADDEUS ..............................................................CLAIMANT
(Suing for and on behalf of the Estate
of Michael Ocheme Onyilo (deceased)
1. ATTORNEY-GENERAL OF BENUE STATE
2. BENUE STATE GOVERNMENT
3. BENUE STATE LOCAL GOVERNMENT PENSION BOARD…DEFENDANTS
4. BUREAU OF LOCAL GOVT & CHIEFTAINCY AFFAIRS
A.C. Attah for the Claimant.
This is a ruling on the Claimant/Applicant’s motion for summary judgment brought pursuant to Order 16 Rules 1 and 5 (2) and Order 17 (1) of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (Civil Procedure) Rules, 2017. The application is dated and filed on 23/05/2018 and is praying this Honourable Court for the following:
"¡. AN ORDER of the Honourable Court entering final judgment in favour of the Claimant as per the General Form of Complaint and Statement of Claim in the sum of N12,078,414.12k (Twelve Million, Seventy-Eight Thousand, Four Hundred and Fourteen Naira Only) being benefits that accrued to Late Michael Ocheme Onyilo now owed and withheld by the Defendants since June, 2012.
¡¡. Damages in the sum of Three Million Naira Only (N3,000,000.00) for the refusal and neglect of the Defendants to pay the Benefits that have accrued to the Estate of Late Michael Ocheme Onyilo.
¡¡¡. One Million Naira Only (N1,000,000.00) as cost of this suit.
The grounds upon which this application is brought are as follows:
"1. The Claims are benefits that accrued to the estate of Late Michael Ocheme Onyilo that the Defendants have refused and neglected to pay the Claimant since his father died on the 18th day of June 2012.
2. That upon the demise of the Claimant’s late father, Michael Ocheme Onyilo, the Defendants has (sic) no reason to withhold or refuse to pay the benefits that accrued to the Claimant’s father, Michael Onyilo.
3. That it is illegal and unconstitutional for the Defendants not to pay the benefits that accrued to the Claimant’s late father, Michael Ocheme Onyilo.
4. That in view of the proceeding facts, the Defendants have no defence to the Claimant’s claim as they are clearly indebted to the Claimant’s late father."
It is worth pointing out that the instant application draws steam from the Complaint filed on 23/05/2018 and the facts of the Claimant's case are that he is acting as administrator of the estate of Late Michael Ocheme Onyilo, his father who died on the 18th of June 2012. That prior to the death of the Claimant’s father, he was employed in 1989 as principal education officer by the Benue State Teaching Service Board but later transferred from there to the Agric Department sometime in 1992. The deceased was later promoted on the 19th day of March 2003 to the post of Director (Agric) on grade level 15/1. That the accrued benefits to his deceased father is N12,278,414.88k (Twelve Million Two Hundred and Seventy – Eight Thousand, Four Hundred and Fourteen Naira, Eighty-eight Kobo Only) and since the death of his father, the Defendants have only paid the sum of N200,000.00 (Two Hundred Thousand Naira Only) out of the N12,278,414.88k (Twelve Million, Two Hundred and Seventy Eight Thousand, Four Hundred and Fourteen Naira. Eighty eight Kobo), leaving the balance of N12,078,414.88k(Twelve Million, Seventy Eight Thousand, Four Hundred and Fourteen Naira, Eighty eight kobo).
The Claimant claims against the Defendants in his complaint were detailed as follows:
"1. A DECLARATION of the Honourable Court that the refusal and failure of the Defendants to pay to the estate of Mr. Michael Ocheme Onyilo (deceased), the due benefits is illegal and unconstitutional.
2. AN ORDER of the Honourable Court compelling the Defendants to pay to the Claimant, the administrator of the estate of the deceased Michael Ocheme Onyilo, the sum of N12, 078, 414.88(Twelve Million, Seventy Eight Thousand, Four Hundred and Fourteen Naira, Eighty eight kobo). being the outstanding; benefits due to the estate of late Michael Ocheme Onyilo.
3. The sum of N3, 000,000.00 (three Million Naira Only) as general damages for the refusal and failure of the Defendants to pay the benefits due to the estate of Michael Ocheme Onyilo since 2012.
4. One million naira only (1,000,000.00) as cost of this action.
Total = N16, 078,414.88k."
The Claimant supported the motion for summary judgment with a 23-Paragraph affidavit and attached six (6) Exhibits. The address of Counsel was also filed alongside the application. Counsel formulated a sole issue for determination to wit:
"Whether this Court can enter final judgment in favour of the Claimant as per the general form of complaint and statement of claim."
In arguing the issue so formulated, counsel relied on the provision of Order 16 Rules 1 and 5 of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (Civil Procedure) Rules 2017 and urged the court to enter summary judgment in favour of the Claimant/Applicant against the Defendants.
Also, while moving the application in court on the 5th day of February 2019, Counsel referred the court to Order 10 of the Civil Procedure Rules of this Honourable Court which is instructive on the filing fee for process relating to a deceased employee.
OPINION OF COURT
A summary judgment is a procedure for disposing with dispatch, cases which are virtually uncontested. It also applies to cases where there can be no reasonable doubt that a plaintiff is entitled to judgment and where it is inexpedient to allow a defendant to defend for mere purpose of delay. It is for the plain and straight forward not for the devious and crafty. See J.S.C. UBA & ANOR V. JARGABA(2007) LPELR-3399(SC) (Pp. 24-25, paras. G-B). PER MOHAMMED.
It is pertinent to note that no defence or counter affidavit was filed or entered by the Defendants. They have not attempted to offer any contest to any of the material facts pleaded by the Claimant. The record of this Honourable Court has shown that the Defendants have neither filed any process nor entered appearance in this case despite service of Hearing Notices on them.
The whole purpose of a summary judgment procedure is to ensure justice to a plaintiff and minimize delay where there is obviously no defence to his claim and thus prevent the grave injustice that might occur through a protracted and immensely frivolous litigation. It is to prevent sham defence from defeating the right of a plaintiff by delay and thus causing great loss to a plaintiff. In other words, the summary judgment rules are specially made to help the Court achieve their primary objective, i.e. to do justice to the parties by hearing their cases on the merit with utmost dispatch and prevent the frequent outcry that justice delayed is justice denied. See the case of OBASANJO FARMS (NIG) LTD v. MUHAMMAD (2016) LPELR-40199(CA) Pp. 34-35, Paras. D-B; UNITED BANK FOR AFRICA PLC VS JARGABA (2007) 11, NWLR (PT.1045) 247, UNIVERSITY OF BENIN VS KRAUS THOMPSON ORGANISATION LTD (2007) 14 NWLR (PT.1055) 441.
In the instant case, there can be no gainsaying that the Defendants have no Defence. The averments in the statement of claim are deemed admitted as they stand uncontroverted.
A calm appraisal of the claims and reliefs sought discloses a cause of action, and further reveals that it is a liquidated money demand. Thus this Honourable Court is of the humble opinion that the Claimant has no need to prove his case by calling evidence.
In the case of AKPAN V. AKWA IBOM PROPERTY & INVESTMENT COMPANY LTD. (2013) LPELR - 20753 (SC), (2013) 12 NWLR (PT.1368) 377 AT 400, the Supreme Court defined liquidated money demand to mean a debt or other specific sum of money usually due and payable, which amount must have already been ascertained or capable of being ascertained as a mere matter of arithmetic without any other further investigation. And thus whenever the amount being claimed by a plaintiff can be ascertained by calculation or fixed by any scale or charges or other positive data; it is said to be liquidated.
The law is clear that the claimant need not go the extra mile of leading oral evidence to prove his case once the necessary particulars concerning the liquidated demand are before the Court. This Court will enter final judgment for the amount claimed under relief (a). See G.M.ON. & S. CO. LTD. V. AKPUTA (2010) 9 NWLR (PT.1200) 443 SC; N.A.C.B. LTD. V. ACHAGWA (2010) 11 NWLR (PT.1205) 339 CA.
Overall, the Claimant/Applicant’s application for summary judgment succeeds and it is hereby ordered that the Defendants shall pay to the Claimant the sum of N12, 078,414.88(Twelve Million, Seventy Eight Thousand, Four Hundred and Fourteen Naira, Eighty eight kobo). Only, being the benefits that accrued and owed to the Late Michael Ocheme Onyilo.
Relief (ii) is refused. Reason being that this Court cannot on the basis of summary judgment grant a claim for payment of unliquidated pecuniary damages. Such a claim must be established by credible evidence which would require the taking of oral evidence in assessment of the amount of damages that may be proved. This is because the court has to give reasons as to how it arrived at what it adjudged to be reasonable damages. It is simply not enough to award damages in a claim for unliquidated pecuniary damages for no reason other than the fact that a party desires it. See MAJA V. SAMOURIS (2002) LPELR-1824(SC) PER IGUH, J.S.C. (PP. 25-26, PARAS. E-G)
Cost of N200,000.00(Two Hundred Thousand Naira)only, is awarded in favour of the Claimant against the Defendants.
The Defendants shall pay to the claimant the above judgment sum within 30 days from today and 10% interest shall also be paid per annum until the judgment is fully liquidated.
Judgment is entered accordingly.
Hon. Justice S. H. Danjidda