Whenever there is an employer/employee relationship, there is bound to be dispute relating to the conditions governing the relationship, which in industrial relation parlance is often referred to as trade or labour dispute. Unarguably, labour disputes have far and wide adverse effects on the growth and stability of the economy of any country. This must have informed the separate legal attention given to it across the globe. In Nigeria, we have the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) which was established in 1976 and saddled with the responsibility of adjudicating trade and industrial disputes across the country. Prior to the establishment of the NICN, labour disputes were dealt with by the regular courts which were already saddled with enough duties. This posed untold hardship on labour litigants as access to justice was marred by unnecessary delays. Again, the procedures at the regular courts were too slow and cumbersome such that a nation desirous of rapid industrialization and socio economic development could not afford to be bogged down by such procedures and delays. When the NICN was formed, it encountered problems with respect to the enforcement of its decisions since it was not a superior court of record. The enactment in 2006 of the National Industrial Court Act which reestablished the NICN and purportedly recognized it as a superior court of record could not cure the defect since such recognition was yet to reflect in the constitution. Happily, a new dawn came for the NICN on the 4th of March 2011 when the then president of the federal Republic of Nigeria assented to the Constitution (Third Alteration) Bill 2010. With this development, the NICN was properly repositioned for the accomplishment of its role in maintaining industrial balance and harmony. What remains an issue which the researcher undertakes to discuss is the extent to which the NICN has been able to affect pivotal issues arising from industrial dispute such as unfair dismissal, remedy of reinstatement and unfair labour practices, to mention but a few. The researcher adopts construction of statutes, case law, journal articles, textbooks and internet materials as his methodology. At the end, the researcher found that the absence or inadequacy of essential labour provisions, the failure to ratify cogent ILO conventions and some level of passivity in the labour judiciary have considerably hampered the effectiveness of the NICN in positively impacting the employer/employee relationship. The researcher then recommends that our labour statutes should be amended to conform to ILO standards and that the government should make haste to ratify all such ILO conventions which positively impact the employer/employee relationship.

1.1 Background of Study
The National Industrial Court of Nigeria (hereinafter referred to as the NICN) is the only court with jurisdiction on labour and industrial matters in Nigeria. The decisions of the court are binding on the parties and are not subject to appeal. Only its decisions on fundamental human rights and criminal matters are appealable to the Court of Appeal. Quite a number of issues crop up every day from industrial dispute, and litigants do not look elsewhere in seeking redress for their rights than the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN). Some of the labour rights violations include cases where an employer can wake up any day and decide to sack any or all of his employees for no just cause, or cases of discrimination of on grounds of sex, colour, race, religion, political view, etc., to mention but a few. All these obtain in the common law regime on labour matters which places the interest of the employer above that of the employee. But this regime is now moribund as most countries no longer abide by it, in keeping with international best practice. The position in Nigeria is sadly still tied to the common law regime. In the circumstance and generally, there is no security of employment in Nigeria. An employee who has worked for an employer all his productive life may have his employment terminated just for any flimsy or no reason at all and thus lose all the benefits and expectations of retirement the job held for him[1]. The remedy of reinstatement is still in doubt for employees of the ordinary master-servant relationship. Section 36 (1) of the 1999 Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria[2] recognizes the citizen’s right to fair hearing. But in the Nigerian labour relations, most employees are not given any opportunity to defend the allegations leveled against them. The employers usually cook up false criminal allegations against their employees and subsequently dismiss them on that basis. The law is that it is for the court to decide whether a person is a criminal or not.[3] Unfortunately, most employees are dismissed recklessly without the judicial determination of their guilt or otherwise.

Worse still, the apex of the issue is the seeming neglect by the Nigerian government of this ongoing suppression of the labour rights of employees in Nigeria. This is reflected by the failure of the government to amend our labour laws to conform to international labour standards and the non-ratification of some fundamental ILO conventions. Laws constitute the major weapon through which any court can administer justice. For instance, the problem of unfair dismissal has been internationally arrested by the ILO convention 158 and its Recommendation 119 on the Termination of Employment at the Initiative of the Employer, 1963. By the provisions of this convention, the NICN can positively impact industrial dispute with respect to dismissal without reason or with invalid reasons. However, what remains an issue is the extent to which the NICN can apply this convention given that it has not been ratified in Nigeria and its provisions have not been reflected in our labour statutes. In most cases, the NICN has found it difficult to let go of the moribund common law principles and this traces chiefly to the problems highlighted above to wit that that the government has failed to ratify the relevant ILO conventions or reflect them in our labour statutes.[4] In some cases, however, the NICN has recognized some labour practices as unfair and in their respect awarded damages.[5] This work will expose the several injustices perpetrated in the employer - employee relationship and as well point out how or whether the NICN has intervened to challenge the situation.

1.2 Statement of Problem
In achieving its goal, which is to foster labour and industrial harmony, the NICN is faced with several challenges which either slow down or paralyze its efforts. For instance, it is best international labour practice for the NICN to make an order of reinstatement where it believes that an employee has been unfairly dismissed even in a master–servant relationship. But the absence of ratification of the ILO Conventions backing most of the best practices and the absence of such provisions in our labour statutes complicate the efforts of the NICN in applying them. However, the NICN is not just a court of law but a court of equity. Grasping its powers as a court of equity requires intrepidity on the part of the judges of the NICN. It is therefore in question whether there has been a substantial departure from the rigid common law principles which characterized the regime of the State High Courts on labour matters. Need therefore arises to examine the challenges with which the NICN is faced and the extent to which the NICN has been able to confront them in impacting industrial dispute.

1.3 Research Questions
Flowing from the brief information above, the questions which this research shall in due course deal with include the following:

i. What is the scope of powers and jurisdiction of the NICN?

ii. What are the problems usually faced by employees (or workers) under the contract of employment for which relief is sought from the NICN?

iii. What impact has the NICN made in addressing these problems?

iv. What are the challenges encountered by the NICN in addressing these problems?

1.3.1 Aim and Objectives of the Study
The aim of the study is to critically analyze the impact of the NICN on industrial dispute. The objectives of the study are as follows:

i. To analyze the history, powers and jurisdiction of the NICN.

ii. To discuss the nature of Industrial Dispute.

iii. To evaluate the roles of the NICN in restoring labour and industrial harmony especially as it affects the employer–employee relationship.

iv. To identify the challenges facing NICN and how the challenges may be eliminated.

1.5 Research Methodology
The researcher uses the analytical approach which involves a critical evaluation of the facts and information relative to the research being conducted.

1.6 Significance of the Study
One of the challenges facing the NICN is the lack of public awareness of its functions, jurisdiction and operation. This work provides vital insight into what the NICN is set to achieve, how it operates and the challenges it is facing in transforming industrial dispute. Therefore, this work will be of great value to students, lawyers, judges and even litigants such as workers, employers and their various associations.

1.7 Limitation and Scope of Study
The only constraint encountered by the researcher is the limited space or number of pages outside which the researcher is instructed not to exhaust. Thus, the researcher encountered some difficulty in compressing the findings to comply with the instruction. The scope of this work shall centre on those areas in which the NICN, in exercising its jurisdiction has impacted industrial dispute and other areas where something needs to be done for parties especially the employees to finally benefit from the jurisdiction of the NICN.

1.8 Definition of Terms
“Claimant”: This includes every person asking any relief (otherwise than by way of counter –claim as a defendant) against any other person by any form of proceeding.

“Employer–Employee relationship”: This means any arrangement or relationship between two persons where one called the employer employs another called the employee to work for him under a contract of employment.

“Matter”: This means every proceeding in court or order in a cause.

“Minister”: This means the minister of employment, labour and productivity.

“Organization”: This includes a trade union or an employers association.

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Item Type: Project Material  |  Size: 67 pages  |  Chapters: 1-5
Format: MS Word  |  Delivery: Within 30Mins.


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