IN THE NATIONAL INDUSTRIAL COURT OF NIGERIA
IN THE BENIN JUDICIAL DIVISION
HOLDEN AT BENIN
BEFORE HIS LORDSHIP HON. JUSTICE A.A. ADEWEMIMO
DATED: 10TH MARCH, 2020
SUIT N0 NICN/ABJ/182/2016
1. The Incorporated Trustees of the Association
of Medical Laboratory Scientists of Nigeria
2. The Incorporated Trustees of the Association
of Medical Laboratiry Scientist of Nigeria, Irua
Specialist Teaching Hospital Chapter, Irua, Edo State.
3. ObarhuaEjiroghene (Chairman, Association of
Medical Laboratory Scientists of Nigeria, Irua
Specialist Teaching Hospital Chapter, Irua, Edo State).
4. Alibi Precious (Secretary, Association of Medical
Laboratory Scientists of Nigeria, Irua Specialist
Teaching Hospital Chapter, Irua, Edo State).
1. Irua Specialist Teaching Hospital, Irua, Edo State
2. Board of Management, Irua Specialist
Teaching Hospital, Irua, Edo State
3. Dr. Syllabus A. Okogbenin (Chief Medical Director
Irua Specialist Teaching Hospital, Irua, Edo State
4. Mr. Tony Edekpo (Director of Administration,
Irua Specialist Teaching Hospital, Irua, Edo State
5. Dr. Ehioze Matthew (H.O.D. Haemathology)
6. Dr. Kingsley Osuji (H.O.D. Chemical Pathology)
7. Dr. G.M. Adewuyi (H.O.D. MicroBiology Department)
C.N. Dike for the Claimant/Judgment Creditor/Applicants
Nelson Aidomokhai for the Defendant/ Judgment Debtors/Respondents
1. This is a post-judgment application filed by the Claimants/Applicants on 17th October, 2019, praying this court for the following orders:
a) AN ORDER declaring null and void, illegal and unlawful the demotion/reduction in rank of MrsAdesuaIbhadode, Dr. N.J. Inyang, Mr. F.I. Dada and Mrs. Marylyn Okoka as well as setting aside the warning given to Adelekun Ashe by the 1st and 2nd Respondent, same having been done while there are several processes/motion pending in this suit before this Honourable Court.
b) AN ORDER directing the 1st and 2nd Respondents to reinstate Mrs. AdesuaIbhadode, Dr. N.J. Inyang, Mr. F.I. Dada, Mrs Marylyn Okoka to their respective ranks before the purported reduction in their ranks, as well as cancel the warning given to Adelekun Ashe.
c) Further order or orders this Court may deem fit to make in the circumstances.
2. In support of the application,the Applicants filed a 15 paragraph affidavitand attached four Exhibits marked Exhibits DCN2A-D,the affidavit was deposed to by ObarhuaEjiroghene, medical laboratory scientist of medical laboratory services department of the 1st respondent. The affidavit isaccompanied by a written address,dated 15th October, 2019,in compliance with the Rules of this court.
3. The Judgment debtor/Respondents filed in response a 10 paragraph counter-affidavit deposed to by Nelson Aidomokhai, legal practitioner of A.O.O Ekpu& Co. solicitors to the Respondents, on 24th October, 2019, accompanied by a written address dated 24th October, 2019. The application was set down for hearing on the 3rdday of February, 2020 with both parties adopting their written addresses.
4. C.N Dike of counsel for the Applicants moved the application on behalf of theJudgment Creditors/Applicants,which was brought pursuant to Section 6(6) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the inherent jurisdiction of this court, he relied on the affidavit in support of the application and adopted his written address.
5. Learned counsel for the Applicants submitted one issue for determination, to wit:
“whether in the light of the facts of this application, the action of the respondents in constituting a committee to try the applicants’members and punishing them despite the processes pending before court is not tantamount to undermining the dignity and integrity of the Court and if so whether this honourable court can make an order to undo what the respondent has done.
6. He argued on the sole issue formulated by him, that the action of the Respondents in constituting a committee to try the applicants’ members and punishing them despite the pendency of court processes before the court, amounted to undermining the dignity and integrity of this court, as no party to a suit should resort to self-help while a matter is pending for determination by a court of law. He cited Ojukwu v Governor of Lagos State (1985) 2 NWLR (Pt. 10) 806 Ratio 15, and argued that where a party has resorted to self-help like the Respondents have done in this instance, the court has unbounded power toundo what was done by the RespondentscitingEzegbu v F.A.T.B (1992) 1 NWLR (Pt. 220) 699 ratio 13. In conclusion, learned counsel, implored the court to invoke its power to undo the action taken by the Respondents in order to protect its dignity and integrity.
7. N.O.Aidomokhai Esq. of counsel for the Judgment Debtors/Respondentsadopted his written address in response to the application and submitted one issue for determination to wit:
“Whether the applicants are entitled to a grant of the said application
8. Learned Counsel for the Respondent submitted on the issue, that the applicants are not entitled to the grant of this application and posited that the Court delivered judgment in this suit on 28th January, 2019, therefore it is functus officio and precluded from acting or expanding the scope of its judgment, as prayed by the Applicants in this application, he relied onAssociated Discount House Limited v Minister, F.C.T. (2014) ALL FWLR (Pt. 713) 18664 at 1878.
9. Learned Counsel further submitted that this application is utterly irregular because the prayers sought are such that should constitute a fresh and separate action since the prayers have no nexus with the suit already decided by this court. He surmised that the application is an abuse of court process as same is frivolous and reckless and cited F.R.N.v Lawani (2014) ALL FWLR (Pt. 7120 1752 at 1771. He contended further, that the refusal of the applicants to obey the posting order made by the 2nd respondent is insubordination which qualifies as gross misconduct deserving of disciplinary action, and further posited that an employer has a right to discipline his employee, citingBoard of Management of Federal Medical Centre, Makurdi v Kwembe (2015) LPELR-40486(CA) and SPDC V Omu (1998) 9 NWLR (Pt. 567) 672. He concluded by urging the court to discountenance the application,as same is completely frivolousand constitutes an abuse of court process.
10. I have considered this application and submissions of both counsel and have come up with one issue to best determine this application, to wit:
Whether or not this application can be entertained by this court as a post Judgment application.
11. It will be recalled that this court delivered Judgment in this suit on the 28thday of January, 2019, wherein, the court declaredcertain rightsof the Judgment creditors/Applicants’ members. The nature of a declaratory Judgment wasexplainedby Ogbuagu JSC in the caseEnekwe v I.M.B. Ltd&Ors (2006) NWLR (Pt. 1013) 46 …..as follows:
“A declaratory judgment merely declares the rights of the parties. Thus the rights which it confers on a plaintiff can only be enforceable if another and subsequent judgment albeit relying on the rights declared, so decrees.
12. The Applicants by bringing this application are seeking for an order setting aside the demotion and reduction in rank of some of its members who were not named nor included in their individual capacities in the main suit in which Judgment was delivered by this court. The processes of court reveals that what was adjudicated upon by the court in the substantive suit is predicated on the questions formed in the Applicants’ originating summons and the reliefs contained therein, which are declaratory. It is also not in doubt that after Judgment was entered, this court became functus officio and cannot reopen trial in the case. I find also that the object of the present application is in no way related to the judgment that was entered in this suit, and any attempt to delve into this application will amount to introducing a new cause of action when the trial in this suit has been concluded. Moreover the Applicants’ motion does not fall under any category of post judgment application in law that this court can entertain, on this see the holding ofOwoade JCA in Duke v Ephraim & Anor (2009) LPELR-8064 (CA) where his Lordship heldthat:
“…The Latin expression functus officio simply means "task performed". Therefore applying it to the judiciary, it means that a Judge cannot give a decision or make an order on a matter twice. In other words, once a Judge gives a decision or makes an order on a matter, he no longer has the competence or jurisdiction to give another decision or order on the same matter ... A Judge is functus officio. If he gives judgment on the merits.”
Having earlier delivered judgment in this suit, the court became functus officio, thus making this application incompetent and the court lacks the vires to entertain same.
13. In that wise, the Applicants’ argument that the Respondents in constituting a committee and punishing the affected persons, while there is motion to restrain them from so doing pending before this court, will not save their application as the application lacks any foundation in law.
14. It is in light of the foregoing that I find that the present application lacks merit and same is hereby refused.
Ruling is accordingly entered.
I make no order as to cost.
Hon Justice A. A. Adewemimo