Abuja –His Lordship, Hon. Justice K. D. Damulak of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria, sitting in Abuja has granted an Order of Mandamus, Compelling National Judicial Council to accept lodgment of theJustice Therisa Uzoamaka Notice of Appeal, compile the Certified True Copies (CTC) of the Record of Proceedings and furnish/transmit the processes to the Court.
The court held that learned counsel for the objectors did not supply any authority, statutory or judicial to show that the record of proceedings of the NJC is a classified or privilege document.
In summary, the 1st Respondent -NJC investigated a petition against the applicant Justice Therisa Uzoamaka as the chief judge of Abia State and recommended the compulsory retirement. The applicant filed an Application in for an order directing the Respondents to make available to the Applicant, Certified True Copies of the verdict among other processes which were granted by the court on the 20thday of July 2018.
The respondents only delivered the verdict to the applicant but not the proceedings. On the 29th day of October 2018, the Applicant’s Counsel’s went to lodge a Notice of Appeal at the 1st respondent through the office of the 2nd respondent, On return after one week, counsel was informed by the NJC Registrar -2nd respondent and his staff that they had written to their external solicitors for advice and would revert to him but never did. These facts gave birth to the present motion.
In opposition to the motion, counsel to the respondent, Dr. Garba Tetengi SAN submitted that a Writ of Mandamus usually lies or issues from a Court of competent Jurisdiction, that It is a prerogative only available to the High Court whether Federal High Court or High Court of a State, not the National Industrial Court.
Learned Counsel further submitted that assuming but not conceding that this is a Court imbued with the power to issue the Writ of Mandamus against the Respondents, the latter has no corresponding duty to perform the act because its proceedings are protected by OFFICIAL SECRETS ACT, thus the corresponding duty by the Respondents, to perform the acts required by the order of Mandamus is not there and therefore an order of mandamus cannot issue.
The respondents filed a preliminary objection praying for An Order dismissing this suit for want of jurisdiction on the grounds that the relationship between the Applicant and the Respondent is not clothed by an employer/employee relationship that the Right of Appeal stated in the constitution has not conferred jurisdiction on the National Industrial Court to hear appeal over NJC verdict.
In reply, learned counsel submitted that the preliminary objection is completely premature as the said appeal is not yet before the Court at the moment. That his application for mandamus is predicated on order 50 Rules 1,2,3,4 and 8 of the Rules of this Court.
After careful evaluation of all the processes filed, and the submissions of the learned Counsel from both sides, the Court presided by Hon. Justice K. D. Damulak assumed jurisdiction and held that the court is empowered to make an order of mandamus.
“it is apparent that counsel’s submissions, that the National Industrial Court is not competent to make an order of mandamus except a High Court, is not a product of any legal research or legal conviction as it appears as clear as daylight that counsel read neither the 1999 Constitution as amended nor the National Industrial Court Act 2006 before making his submissions. Wishful thinking and sentiment seem to lay more claim to counsel’s submissions.
“The application for an order of mandamus is with respect to an appeal intended for this Court and the refusal to accept the notice of appeal and transmit records to this Court is sufficient for the applicant to apply to this Court for an order of mandamus under order 50 Rule 8 of the Rules of this Court.
“I have read the entire 10 sections of the OFFICIAL SECRETS ACT, CAP. 03, LAWS OF THE FEDERATION, 2004, I find nothing in it that makes proceedings of the 1st defendant an official secret or privilege document, in the absence of any statutory or judicial authority to that effect, I cannot take judicial notice of such a fact.
“…It is not in doubt that the respondents owe a duty to the applicant to produce for him records of appeal. Similarly, by the uncontroverted depositions of the applicant, it is clear that he has made a demand for the performance of that duty and it has been refused.”
On the whole, the court granted an Order of Mandamus Compelling the Respondents to accept lodgment of the Applicant’s Notice of Appeal, compile the Certified True Copies (CTC) of the Record of Proceedings and furnish/transmit the processes to the Court.
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