Jurisdiction means Power or right of a legal or political agency to exercise its authority over a person, subject matter, or territory. Jurisdiction over a person relates to the authority to try him or her as a defendant. Jurisdiction over a subject matter relates to authority derived from the country's constitution or laws to consider a particular case. Jurisdiction over a territory relates to the geographic area over which a court has the authority to decide cases. Concurrent jurisdiction exists where two courts have simultaneous responsibility for the same case. The National Industrial Court of Nigeria also known as NIC is a court empowered to adjudicate trade disputes, labour practices, matters related to the Factories Act, Trade Disputes Act, Trade Unions Act, Workmen’s Compensations Act and appeals from the Industrial Arbitration Panel.
Jurisdiction is a fundamental and bedrock of any judicial proceedings. Accordingly, the Black’s Law Dictionary defines ‘jurisdiction’ as “government’s general power to exercise authority over all persons and things within its territory”. Within the context of judicial proceedings, ‘jurisdiction’ has been defined to mean ‘a court’s power to decide a case or issue a decree’. It follows that before a court of law entertains any matter brought before it for adjudication, it must ensure that it possesses the jurisdiction to sit over the matter, failing which the proceedings no matter how well conducted amount to nullity. Procedurally, jurisdiction of court does not exist in vacuum. For this reason, court’s authority or jurisdiction is a product of constitution or other specific statutes. Of course, no court of law can assume
Jurisdiction without being statutorily empowered to do so. In Nigeria, the jurisdiction of the NIC is a product of several enactments. For instance, before the enactment of the NICA, 2006 and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (Third Alteration) Amendment Act, 2010, various sections of the Trade Dispute Act such as sections 14, 15, 16, 17, 18 and 20 vested power on the Minister of labour and productivity or any aggrieved party to refer labour disputes to the NIC either for outright adjudication or for the interpretation of arbitral award. Similarly, by virtue of sections 7 and 8 of the Trade Union Act, where the Registrar of Trade cancels registration of a Trade Union, which registration is in existence on the date specified in the notice of cancellation, any official or member of the Trade Union may within thirty days thereof appeal to the appropriate court to make appropriate order on the purported cancellation. The phrase ‘appropriate court’ in the above sections is defined, in section 54 of the Trade Union Act, to mean ‘the Industrial Arbitration Panel or the National Industrial Court as the case may be’. The above was the position in Nigeria before the enactment of the NICA, 2006 and the amendment to the Constitution of Nigeria in 2010. Section 7 of the NICA, 2006 conferred on the NIC exclusive jurisdiction to adjudicate civil causes and matters relating to labour, industrial trade union and industrial relations and environment and conditions of work, health, safety and welfare of labour and matter incidental thereto amongst others. These provisions in the most inordinate and over bloated manner were reinforced and strengthened by section 254C (1) of the
Constitution (Third Alteration) Amendment Act, 2010. Journal of Law, Policy and Globalization. Although, the NIC is still a court of coordinate jurisdiction with other superior courts of record in its sphere of authority like the Federal High Court, the State High Court and the High Court of Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. However, by virtue of section 254C (1), its jurisdiction is exclusive to it and cannot be concurrently exercised or shared among the other High Courts in the same pedestal of authority or power. Reason for this assertion is found in the definition of the phrase ‘exclusive jurisdiction’ in the Black’s Law Dictionary, where it is defined to mean ‘a court’s power to adjudicate an action or class of actions to the exclusion of all other courts’. Premised on the foregoing, the decisions of the Supreme Court of Nigeria in the cases of Attorney General, Oyo State v. National Labour Congress (supra) and National Union of Electricity Employer & Other v. Bureau of Public Enterprises (2010) 7 NWLR (Pt. 194) 538), which limited the jurisdiction of the NIC and placed it at par with the jurisdictions of the Federal High Court, the State High Court and the High Court of Federal Capital Territory, Abuja have ceased to have validity of law. The combined effects of section 7 of the NICA, 2006 and section 254C (1) of the Constitution (Third Alteration) Amendment Act, 2010 are that the present jurisdiction of NIC is exclusive to it and cannot be shared with other courts.
The National Industrial Court shall have and exercise jurisdiction to the exclusion of any other court in civil causes and matters.
(A). Relating to or connected with any labour, employment, trade unions, industrial relations and matters arising from workplace, the conditions of service, including health, safety, welfare of labour, employee, worker and matters incidental thereto or connected therewith;
(B). Relating to, connected with or arising from Factories Act, Trade Disputes Act, Trade Unions Act, Labour Act, Employees' Compensation Act or any other Act or Law relating to labour, employment, Industrial relations, workplace or any other enactment replacing the Acts or Laws;
(C). Relating to or connected with the grant of any order restraining any person or body from taking part in any strike, lock-out or any industrial action, or any conduct in contemplation or in furtherance of a strike, lock-out or any industrial action and matters Connected therewith or related thereto;
(D). Relating to or connected with any dispute over the interpretation and application of the provisions of Chapter IV of this Constitution as it relates to any employment, labour, industrial relations, trade Unionism, employer's association or any other matter which the Court has jurisdiction to hear and determine;
(E). Relating to or connected with any dispute arising from national minimum wage for the Federation or any part thereof and matters connected therewith or arising there from;
(F). Relating to or connected with unfair labour practice or international best practices in labour, employment and industrial relation matters;
(G). Relating to or connected with any dispute arising from discrimination or sexual harassment at workplace;
(H). Relating to, connected with or pertaining to the application or interpretation of international labour standards;
(I). Connected with or related to child labour, child abuse, human trafficking or any matter connected therewith or related thereto;
(J). Relating to the determination of any question as to the interpretation and application of any-
(I). Collective agreement;
(II). Award or order made by an arbitral tribunal in respect of a trade dispute or a trade union dispute;
(III). Award or judgment of the Court;
(IV). Term of settlement of any trade dispute;
(V). Trade union dispute or employment dispute as may be recorded in a memorandum of settlement;
(VI). Trade union constitution, the constitution of an association of employers or any association relating to Journal of Law, Policy and Globalization employment, labour, industrial relations or work place;
(VII). Dispute relating to or connected with any personnel matter arising from any free trade zone in the Federation or any part thereof;
(K). Relating to or connected with disputes arising from payment or nonpayment of salaries, wages, Pensions, gratuities, allowances, benefits and any other entitlement of any employee, worker, Political or public office holder, judicial officer or any civil or public servant in any part of the Federation and matters incidental thereto;
(L). Relating to-
(I). Appeals from the decisions of the Registrar of Trade Unions, or matters relating thereto or connected therewith;
(II). Appeals from the decisions or recommendations of any administrative body or commission of enquiry, arising from or connected with employment, labour, trade unions or industrial relations; and
(III). Such other jurisdiction, civil or criminal and whether to the exclusion of any other court or not, as may be conferred upon it by an Act of the National
(M). Relating to or connected with the registration of collective agreements.
Undoubtedly, labour and industrial related disputes are serious issues in any nation. Labour dispute has Staggering effects on both the social and economy sectors of a country resulting in low productivity, unemployment, wastage of human resources and many other problems. To avert this, countries, the word over, have advocated for expeditious resolution of labour dispute before it goes out of hand. Rising to the occasion, the Nigeria Government, in the year 2006, after several years of confusion and problems associated with the jurisdictions of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria came out with statutory regulation on the matter.