By Fatai Abiodun
It was an English playwright, poet and actor, who was widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world’s pre-eminent dramatist, William Shakespeare who said, “Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them.”
The 60 years of being in existence of Hon. Justice Benedict Kanyip clearly attests that he was not only born great, but is also achieving greatness and has greatness thrust upon him. Justice Kanyip can best be described as a quintessential jurist whose judicial prowess and administrative acumen are clear testimonies and demonstrations of God’s mercy bestowed on him for the benefit of the nation and humanity.
Nothing could be truer that Hon. Justice Benedict Kanyip, PhD, OFR is not only a personification of passion for the development of labour justice but a quintessential administrator, celebrated academic and jurist wielding an enviable wealth of experience garnered from decades of fruitful service to his fatherland.
It is not a fallacy to say that his exceptional contributions, dedication and hard work have made him an invaluable asset to labour jurisprudence through an array of achievements upon his assumption of office. He has laboured most of his life at the Industrial Court and is clearly achieving the mandate of the founding fathers.
Green with a vision on how to turn around the fortunes of the labour jurisprudence in Nigeria where he has spent about 4 years being president since appointment by former President Muhammadu Buhari following the recommendation made by the National Judicial Council upon the retirement of his predecessor, Retired Justice Babatunde Adejumo. This erudite jurist, a perfect specimen of humility and father to multitude derives joy in taking the court to a greater height.
Justice Kanyip without any shadow of doubt is a firm believer that a happier workforce is the gateway to reaching the utmost productivity. The eloquent testimony of this is manifestly seen in the faces of the justice seekers beaming with smiles and the assurance that they can never suffer double jeopardy as long as the Industrial Court exists.
He has not failed to state that a key principle in industrial relations law and practice is that the disciplinary process must not run slowly and sluggishly, or be unnecessarily prolonged; otherwise, the employer stands the risk of an adverse verdict.
The Southern Kaduna-born jurist has also made it clear that Industrial Court under his care would never cease to stress that an employer cannot treat an employee shabbily and expect a pat on the back from the Court, and God forbids that the huge population of the aggrieved employees who have lost their jobs or suffered other losses should feel hopeless in the court system.
Without any form of gainsaying, the Industrial Court under the care of the Hon. President, Justice Kanyip is the most digitalized court in Nigeria and has become a clear example for others to follow. This achievement can only be possible when the head prioritizes development and is determined to bring justice closer to the litigants without stress.
The 3rd amendment to the 1999 Constitution presents the game changer for the adjudication of labour disputes in Nigeria which provides for the applicability of the use of ILO’s international best practices and international labour standard. Under the care of Hon. Justice Kanyip, the Court has never failed to rise to the occasion and in unison against any form of impunity and lawlessness.
In a bid to protect the labour rights of employees, the court has demonstrated through the plethora of cases that any conditions of service that constitute unfair labour practices will never get the endorsement of the Court.
In affirmation and recognition of the court decisions under the leadership of My Lord, Hon. Justice Benedict Kanyip in the implementation of ILO conventions, In November 2022 the ILO appointed Justice Kanyip a member of the Committee of Experts in the Application of Conventions and Recommendations, (CEACR). This committee is a 20-member body which came into being in accordance with the decision adopted by the Governing Body of the ILO in 1979. Members of the Committee are outstanding legal experts at national and international levels appointed by the Governing Body on the recommendation of its officers on the proposal of the Director-General.
Again, My Lord is not taking lightly issues surrounding the development of labour jurisprudence. He believes that the interpretation of employment and labour disputes requires an understanding of the subject matter in line with its speciality as the bedrock of peaceful and harmonious co-existence in society.
From the year 2021 till date, two of the former judges of the Court have been elevated to the Court of Appeal which is to further enrich the labour jurisprudence and its application on employment dispute. Harping on the importance of justice delivery in a functional sense to the realisation of Nigeria of everyone’s dream, Justice Kanyip believes that justice is good when it is dispensed transparently, with integrity, speed, and circumspection.
It was Prof. Isreal Udoinyang of the Prestigious University of Uyo who opined “Show me your friend and I will tell you your CGPA”. The above quote is synonymous with the achievement of Justice Kanyip with the help of his brother judges who have never failed in their constitutional mandates of ensuring justice delivery devoid of technicality.
Recently, in a bid to guarantee continued access to justice and expeditious disposal of cases, the Hon. President of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN), Hon. Justice Benedict Kanyip issued the practice direction on filing of Applications/Motions in Trade Union Matters and Marking of Exhibits) which many described as timely and issued in good light and compliance with the same will ensure speedy dispensation of cases and reduce clog in the wheel of justice.
As a die-hard believer in labour justice, Justice Benedict Kanyip is engaging with various stakeholders, especially the members of the Bar for an interaction that will clear the legion of impediments regarding the specialized nature and jurisdiction of the court.
As I bring this piece to a close, it is worthy of note that in just about four years of assumption of office as the president of the court, the most dogged, focused and goal-oriented President has demonstrated that he is armed with lofty ideas coupled with his rich public, judicial and administrative experience that will no doubt accelerate justice delivery.
It’s My Lord’s utmost satisfaction to leave the court that will not only be a place of succour for every employee but one for which the founding fathers will derive pride. This is the journey Hon. Justice Kanyip has started on a cheery footing.
On this auspicious day and as My Lord journeys on, it’s my fervent prayer that My Lord will enjoy many more years of fruitful service to his fatherland.
Fatai Abiodun writes from Abuja