Background: Recently, the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (Civil Procedure) Rules, 2017 "the Rules" replaced the National Industrial Court Rules 2007 and the Practice Direction 2012, which previously guided procedures in the National Industrial Court. With the new Rules, the National Industrial Court "the Court" aims to improve the administration of justice in its proceedings. In line with this objective, the Rules incorporate new provisions considered below.
Fast-Track Proceedings In keeping with the aim of achieving quicker dispensation of justice, Fast-track proceedings have been introduced into the Rules. Order 25 of the Rules lists the qualities required for a matter to be placed on the Fast-track and the procedures after such placement. However, the majority of the types of cases which qualify for Fast-track proceedings seem to be those touching on public interest.
Deceased Employees (Testate & Intestate)
Under the Rules, a distinction is made between those who died testate (leaving a valid will) and those who died intestate (without a will). For the former, the filing of any process relating to their entitlements would attract only 25% of the filing fees. For the latter, no discount is given. Rather, kinship would have to be proved by the dependants. Consequently, it will be wise for employees (especially in high-risk jobs) to draft their wills so as not to aggravate any disputes in case of their demise.
Note that an employee's dependant may commence an action at the Court for compensation on any matter relating to death, injury, illness or disease that occurs in the course of the employee's employment. This action may be commenced at the Court in so far as an appeal has not been filed to the Board implementing the Employee's Compensation Act, 2010.
Limitation on Media Coverage of Court Proceedings
The Rules limit media coverage of the Court's proceedings to only matters of national importance as allowed by the presiding Judge or the President of the Court. Legal practitioners are prohibited from granting any press interview or making comments on any matter which is still before the Court. These provisions are geared towards protecting parties in cases before the Court in view of the usually sensitive nature of the disputes.
Introduction of Pre-Trial Conference
To promote amicable settlement of disputes, the use of pre-trial conferences has been added to the procedural requirements in the Court. Pre-trial proceedings can be initiated suo motu by the Court or by any of the parties.
Other Innovations: Electronic filing of processes, Promotion of the adoption of ADR, Guidelines for sexual harassment/ Workplace discrimination claims. Hopefully, these new provisions will be implemented optimally to meet their raison d'etre.
October 31, 2018
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