IN THE NATIONAL INDUSTRIAL COURT OF NIGERIA
IN THE MAKURDI JUDICIAL DIVISION
HOLDEN AT MAKURDI
BEFORE HIS LORDSHIP, HON. JUSTICE S.H. DANJIDDA PRESIDING
ON THE 19TH DAY OF JULY, 2019
SUIT NO: NICN/MKD/74/2018
MRS. FELICIA AKOGWU CLAIMANT/APPLICANT
1. ATTORNEY- GENERAL OF BENUE STATE
2. BENUE STATE GOVERNMENT
3. BENUE STATE UNIVERSAL BASIC DEFENDANTS/RESPONDENTS
4. BENUE STATE LOCAL GOVT. PENSION BOARD
5. BUREAU OF LOCAL GOVT. & CHIEFTANCY AFFAIRS..
A.C. Attah for the claimant
E.T. Nyityo (SSC) Benue State Ministry of Justice for the defendants
The Claimant/Applicant filed a Complaint on 5th December 2018 along with a motion summary judgment under Order 16 and 17 of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (Civil Procedure) Rules 2017 asking for the following reliefs;
“An Order of the Honourable court compelling or directing the Defendants to pay to the Claimant the sum of N2,407,946.88 (Two Million, Four Hundred & Seven Thousand, Nine Hundred & Forty- Six Naira, Eighty- Eight Kobo)only, being the Claimant’s gratuity illegally owed and withheld by the Defendants since August 2012.
i. An Order of the Honourable court compelling or directing the Defendants to pay to the Claimant the sum of N658,777.92 (Six Hundred & Fifty Eight Thousand, Seven Hundred & Seventy- Seven Naira Ninety- Two kobo)only, being the Claimant’s pension illegally owed and withheld by the Defendants since August 2012.
ii. An order of the Honourable court directing or compelling the Defendants to pay to the Claimant the sum of N3,457,324.08 (Three Million, Four Hundred & Fifty- Seven Thousand, Three Hundred & Twenty- Four Naira Eight Kobo) only being the Claimant’s monthly pension allowances illegally withheld and now owed by the Defendants for sixty two months from 1st August 2012 to 30th June 2018.
iv. N1,000,000,00 (One Million Naira) only, being general damages for the refusal and failure of the Defendants to pay the Claimant’s outstanding gratuity and pension since 2012.”
In support of the application is 8 paragraph affidavit deposed by the Claimant, Felicia Akogwu and exhibit A (Notification of Appointment and Offer of Promotion letters both dated 16/6/2011) and exhibit B (Re: Submission of Retirement Benefits in respect of Mrs. Felicia Akogwu dated 28/1/2013) and a statement of facts are attached thereof.
In the written address adopted by counsel to the Claimant, a sole issue was raised for determination thus;
"Whether the court can enter final judgment in favour of the Claimant as per the general form of complaint and statement of claim."
Counsel submits that the Claimant is entitled to final judgment against the Defendants/Respondents under Order 16 Rule 1 of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (Civil Procedure) Rules 2017.
Counsel submits that the Claimant/Applicant has fully complied with the rules of court by filing a general form of complaint, statement of claim, motion for summary judgment, exhibits and statement on oath and list of documents to be relied upon by claimant. The Motion for summary judgment is also accompanied by an affidavit stating the facts of the Claimant’s case and the fact that the defendants/Respondents have no defence to the suit.
Counsel argues that from the pleadings and application filed, it is crystal clear that the Claimant’s suit borders on non- payment of her post-employment benefits and monthly pension which has been unlawfully withheld by the Defendants/Respondents till date and it is apparent that the Defendants/Respondents have no defence to the claim.
Counsel submits that by Order 16 rules 1 and 5 (1 & 2) of the rules of this court, the court can proceed and enter judgment for the claimant where it appears that a party does not have good defence. According to counsel the case of the Claimant is clear, uncontested and undisputed and since there is no evidence of payment of the Claimant's/Applicant’s post- employment benefits, the court is enjoined to enter final judgment for the Claimant.
On the 12th July 2019 when the matter came up for ruling, the Defendants/Respondents by application filed on 9th July 2019 sought orders of the court to vacate its order adjourning the matter for ruling and grant extension of time for the Defendants to file their statement of defence and counter- Affidavit to the motion for summary judgment. The said application was granted.
A perusal of the statement of defence and the counter affidavit filed on 9th July 2019 along with exhibits LGPB1 and LGPB2 reveals that the Defendants are challenging the Claimant’s motion for summary judgment on grounds that the figures presented as pension arrears by the Claimant are wrong. That is by exhibit LGBP2, the Claimant has been paid her monthly pension from February 2016 to June 2017 hence cannot be awarded the total sum of N3,457,324.08 (Three Million Four Hundred and Fifty- Seven Thousand, Three Hundred & Twenty- Four Naira, Eight Kobo) as pension arrears.
Counsel to the Defendants submits by paragraph 5 of their counter- affidavit that the Claimant is entitled to N2,407,946.88 (Two Million, Four Hundred & Seven Thousand, Nine Hundred & Forty- Six Naira, Eighty- Eight Kobo)only, and N2,305,722.72 (Two Million Three Hundred and Five Thousand Seven Hundred & Twenty- Two Naira Seventy- Two Kobo) only, as gratuity and pension arrears respectively amounting to N4,713,669.60 (Four Million Seven Hundred & Thirteen Thousand, Six Hundred & Sixty- Nine Naira Sixty Kobo)only, as against the sums claimed.
A glean into the statement of facts and accompanying processes filed by the Claimant/Applicant reveals that the Claimant/Applicant was employed by the 3rd Defendant in 1988 and rose to the rank of Senior Assistant Education Officer 1 in 2011 before her retirement on 10th May 2012. Exhibits A and B attest to these facts. However, upon her retirement in 2012 and upon the computation of her retirement benefits as contained in exhibit B, neither the monthly pensions due to her nor the retirement benefits have been paid to her by the Defendants.
The question to be asked here is whether the Claimant/Applicant can be granted the reliefs brought under Order 16 of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (Civil Procedure) Rules 2017.
Order 16 (1) of the rules of this court states that;
"Where a claimant believes that there is no defence to the claim, an application for summary judgment supported by an affidavit stating the grounds for the belief shall be filed along with the originating process. The application shall be accompanied with the statement of facts, any exhibits and a written brief."
The Claimant before this court has come under this provision as she believes the Defendants have no defence to her claims. The purpose of the summary judgment procedure that was imported into our legal system from England is simply to ensure that a plaintiﬀ gets quick and deserved justice where there is no defence to the claim and take away the possible injustice that an unnecessarily prolonged litigation would likely occasion. A defendant who feels he has a defence to the claim is expected to ﬁle his statement of defence, depositions of his witnesses, exhibits to be used in this defence, and a counter- affidavit in opposition to the application for summary judgment. When this is done, the court is then expected to ascertain whether there are questions of facts and law which raise triable issues. Where there are none deduced from the response of the defendant to the application for summary judgment requiring the case to be sent to the general cause list, the court may enter judgment with respect to the relief claimed. See Lewis V. UBA (2016) 1 SCNJ 68, Obitude V. Onyesom Bank (2014) 4 SCNJ 153, (2014) 9 NWLR Pt. 1412 Pg. 352.
The provisions of Order 16 rules 1, 5 (1 & 2) of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (Civil Procedure) Rules 2017 is clear and unequivocal on what is expected of the Claimant, Defendant and the Court in an application under it. Thus in Emerald Garland Beverages Ltd. & Anor V. Madubchesi (2010) LPELR - 4104 at 18-21, the court opined that:
"Nonetheless, there are conditions to be fulfilled and procedures to be followed by the Plaintiff, the Defendant and the Judge in the summary judgment proceeding.
The Plaintiff must
I. Believe that there is no defence to his claim;
Ii. File his statement of claim, the exhibits, the depositions of his witnesses along with his originating process;
iii. File an application for summary judgment;
iv. Support the application with an affidavit; and
vi. File a written address in respect thereof.
Where a Defendant intends to defend the suit, he must file-
I. His statement of defence;
ii. Depositions of his witness;
iii. Exhibits to be used in his defence; and
iv. A written address in reply to the application for summary judgment.
Where it appears to a Judge that
I. A Defendant has a good defence, he may be granted leave to defend;
ii. The Defendant has no good defence, judgment may be entered for the Plaintiff;
iii. The Defendant has a good defence to part of the claim, he may be granted leave to defend that part of the claim;
iv. The Defendant had no defence to other parts of the claim, judgment may be entered in favour of the plaintiff for that part of the claim;
V. Any of several Defendants has a good defence, he may be permitted to defend; and
vi. Any of the several Defendants has good defence, the Judge shall enter judgment against him."
In the case of United Bank of Africa & Anor V. Alhaji Babangida Jargaban (2007) 5 S.C.5 at 11 (SC) or (2007) 11 NWLR (Pt. 1045) 247, Mohammad JSC stated that, 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 purposes of delay. It is for the plain and straight forward, not for the devious and craft.
See also the case of Beloxxi Ind. Ltd & Anor V. HWA Tai Ind. Berhaard Ltd. (2011) LPELR-3867 and Project Nineteen Ltd. & Anor V. Aziz/Stacons Ltd. & Associates (2014) LPELR-23736.
The reliefs sought by the Claimant/Applicant have only been challenged as regards computation of the pension arrears due to the Claimant. The fact that the Defendants are owing the Claimant is not in issue. In the instant suit, there is nothing from the statement of defence and counter- affidavit to show triable issues or a defence to the action. See the case of Digital Security Technology Ltd. & Anor V. Andi (2017) LPELR- 43446 (CA) and F.M.G. V. Sani (1990) 7 SCNJ 161 at 164.
By Order 16 rule 5(2) of the Rules of this court, “where it appears to the court that a party does not have a good defence the court may thereupon enter judgment for the Claimant”.
From the foregoing, I have no doubt in mind that the claims of the Claimant can be decided under the summary judgment procedure as the pleadings, affidavit and documents frontloaded are consistent and in support of the Claimant’s claim. Consequently the case of the Claimant hereby succeeds and I invoke the provisions of Order 16 Rule 5(2) of the National Industrial Court (Civil Procedure) Rules 2017 to order as follows:
That the Defendants/Respondents shall pay the total sum of N4,713,669.60 (Four Million Seven Hundred & Thirteen Thousand, Six Hundred & Sixty- Nine Naira Sixty Kobo) comprising N2,407,946.88 (Two Million, Four Hundred & Seven Thousand, Nine Hundred & Forty- Six Naira, Eighty- Eight Kobo) being the Claimant’s gratuity as per exhibit B dated 28/1/2013 and N2,305,722.72 (Two Million Three Hundred and Five Thousand Seven Hundred & Twenty- Two Naira Seventy- Two Kobo) as pension arrears as per exhibit LGPB1.
The said judgment sum of N4,713,669.60(Four Million, Seven Hundred and Thirteen Thousand, Six Hundred and Sixty Nine Naira-Sixty kobo) shall be paid within 30 days from the date of this judgment failing which it shall attract 10% interest per annum until the judgment sum is fully liquidated.
HON. JUSTICE S. H. DANJIDDA