Industrial Court strikes out N1.3b pension increment claim against WAEC, AGF, 4 Others

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Hon. Justice Ikechi Nweneka of the Lagos Judicial Division of the National Industrial Court, Hon. Justice Ikechi Nweneka has struck out N1,308,341,000 [One Billion, Three Hundred And Eight Million, Three Hundred And Forty-One Thousand Naira] pension increment claim by Registered Trustees Of Waec Pensioners Welfare Association against the WAEC, DG-PENCON, AGF and 3 others for lack of jurisdiction and no reasonable cause of action.

Justice Nweneka held that non-compliance with the provisions of Sections 97, 98 and 99 of the Sheriffs and Civil Process Act in serving the Minister of Finance, Budget & National Planning who resides outside Lagos State robs the Court of jurisdiction to entertain the matter.

The Court described the Registered Trustees of WAEC Pensioners Welfare Association as meddlesome interloper as there is no disclosure of the Claimant’s standing or its interest in the cause of action in the statement of facts and supporting documents.

From facts, the claimant- Registered Trustees of WAEC Pensioners   Welfare Association had sought an order directing and compelling WAEC and 5 others to immediately pay the sum of N1,308,341,000 [One Billion, Three Hundred And Eight Million, Three Hundred And Forty-One Thousand Naira] only being the sum due to 504 out of 560 of the association’s aggrieved members as calculated by the actuarial and financial consulting firm, hired by the WAEC to work-out their 322% cumulative pension increment as at 31st of August 2002 among others.

In defense, the 6th Defendant- Attorney-General of the Federation prayed the Court for an order striking out their name from the suit on the grounds that the case does not disclose any cause of action against the AGF or the Federal Government of Nigeria and is not a necessary party to the case.

The 4th Defendant- Minister of Education prayed the Court for an order striking out the name of the agency from the suit for want of cause of action, while the 1st Defendant- West African Examination Council [WAEC] prays the Court to strike out the suit for lack of jurisdiction on the ground that the association does not have the locus standi to institute the action against the agency.

Learned Counsel to the WAEC argued that the Claimant does not have the same or common interest with the 560 former employees of the 1st Defendant, and does not possess the requisite legal capacity to bring this action on behalf of the 560 former employees of the agency.

The 3rd Defendant- Minister of Finance, Budget & National Planning prayed the Court to set aside the complaint for lack of jurisdiction on the grounds that the ministry was served outside Lagos State without the requisite endorsement of the writ; and the specified time for appearance, 14 days, is inconsistent with the Sheriffs and Civil Process Act.

In opposition, the Registered Trustees of WAEC Pensioners Welfare Association’s counsel averred that the Minister of Education has willfully taken no steps to ensure compliance by the WAEC with the policies of the Federal Government on pension increment, and conceded that the AGF is a nominal party and has been joined because he is constitutionally empowered to advise the Federal Government of Nigeria and her agencies on legal issues, not because he has any direct or personal interest in the suit.

He submitted further that the Minister of Education was properly served and by the Rules of Court, service outside jurisdiction means service outside Nigeria, urged the court to dismiss the objection.

Delivering the judgment, after a thorough evaluation of the submission of both parties, the presiding Judge, Justice Ikechi Nweneka held that the 6th Defendant is not a necessary, proper or desirable party to the case, and his joinder is unsustainable as there is no allegation made against the Federal Government of Nigeria or the 6th Defendant and the 1st Defendant is not an agency of the Federal Government, notwithstanding the application of the Pension Reform Act to it.

The Court held that the association not being a trade union lacks the capacity to maintain the suit on behalf of its members have failed to establish a nexus between it and the cause of action.

“However, having sustained the objections by the 1st, 3rd, 4th and 6th Defendants, and held that the Claimant lacks the competence to institute this action in a representative capacity, and that the originating process is void for non-compliance with Sections 97, 98 and 99 of the Sheriffs and Civil Process Act, I hold that the Court lacks jurisdiction to entertain this suit, which is consequently struck out. Pursuant to Order 55 Rule 2, National Industrial Court of Nigeria [Civil Procedure] Rules, 2017, and having regard to the reasons for striking out the suit, I make no order as to costs.” The Court ruled.

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