Hearing began at the National Industrial Court (NIC) Abuja on Monday in the suit brought before the court by Comrade Iduh Lawrence Onah against the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), first defendant and Comrade Abdulwahed Omar, president of the NLC as second defendant over an alleged illegal termination of his employment.
Although the first and second defendants were not present in court, presiding judge and President of the NIC, Justice Babatunde Adejumo, called for the beginning of hearing while expressing his dismay over the continued absence of the defendants. The defence counsel, Anthony Itedjere (Esq.) told the court that the second defendant had travelled outside the country, an excuse which Justice Adejumo said was inconsequential against the fact that the second defendant was fully aware of the litigation against him and its date. Justice Adejumo stated that knowing that justice delayed is justice denied; he was disposed to start hearing the case that day. After brief arguments between the counsel to the plaintiff, Okunade Olorundare (SAN) and defence counsel, Anthony Itedjere on technicalities of filing of motion, the plaintiff was sworn to testify.
Iduh, who was until March last year the Acting Head of the Department of Information and Public Relations of the NLC, told the court that contrary to the claim by the second defendant in a letter that his appointment was terminated as a result of a re-organisation process in the NLC, the second defendants action was rather a punitive measure founded on the spurious allegation that he attended an international conference on behalf of NLC without approval. Iduh averred that rather than that, the second defendant had openly accused him and one of his colleagues, Comrade Esther Ogunfowora, of conducts inimical to the interest of NLC at a meeting of the Central Working Committee (CWC) of the NLC on May 23, 2011, arising from which the second defendant vehemently canvassed for the termination of his (Iduh’s) appointment which was granted without giving him fair hearing in line with the constitution, conditions of service of the NLC as well as the Nigerian Constitution.
Tendered as exhibits to support his claim are the CD of audio recording of the said CWC meeting and its transcript, letters of NLC’s offer of employment to Iduh and his acceptance letter of the offer, letter of termination of Iduh’s appointment signed by the second defendant and Iduh’s response to the termination, NLC’s constitution and conditions of service as well as correspondences between Iduh’s lawyers and the defence counsel.
While the defence counsel said he was not opposed to any of the exhibits tendered as evidence in the matter, he however challenged the admissibility of the audio recording of the CWC meeting by referring to Section 84 of the Evidence Act. The defence counsel, Olorundare (SAN), however countered this submission by arguing that Section 84 referred by the defence counsel was inapplicable in the matter but rather section 91 as in the case between Ojo Madueke vs Amadi Okoroafor. He concluded that the audio recording of the meeting is relevant to the matter both in law and in fact arguing that the procedures for tendering it as exhibit were properly followed.
Justice Adejumo admitted the audio recording in evidence stating that from the exchanges between both counsel, it was clear that the position of the defence was not on point of law drawn from judicial pronouncements but his personal opinion of the Evidence Act which he said was not sufficient to sustain his objection. While the defence pleaded for more time to supply cases to support his objection, Justice Adejumo declined by stating that the defence counsel ought to have prepared sufficiently knowing that the case was for hearing that day. He however stated that it will be at the discretion of the court to rely on the audio recording of the CWC meeting as either relevant or not to the case in the course of reviewing the entire proceedings for judgement. He adjourned sitting to April 19-20, 2012 for the cross-examination of the plaintiff by the defence.