Hon. Justice Polycarp Hamman of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria, Portharcourt Judicial Division has dismissed the preliminary objection filed by Seateam Offshore Ltd in a matter brought by Akuroma Stephen for lacking merit.
The Court voided section 2(3)(c)(d)&(r) of the Admiralty Jurisdiction Act 2004 for being inconsistent with the constitutional provisions vesting the court with exclusive jurisdiction over labour and employment-related cases.
Justice Polycarp held that with the coming into effect of the 3rd Alteration which is now section 254C of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, the argument of the Seateam Offshore Ltd challenging the jurisdiction of the Court was misplaced and of no moment.
From facts, the Defendant- Seateam Offshore Ltd had filed a Notice of Preliminary Objection challenging the jurisdiction of the court and argued that the case of Mr. Akuroma is in the nature of maritime claim which can only be entertained exclusively by the Federal High Court and the Admiralty Jurisdiction Act that nothing in the 3rd Alteration Act conferring jurisdiction on the Industrial Court in cases involving a seaman and the owner of a ship, and urged the court to strike out the suit for want of jurisdiction.
In opposition, I. D. Wariboko Esq, the learned counsel to Mr. Akuroma argued that the Third Alteration which conferred jurisdiction on the Industrial court has overridden the provisions of section 2(3)(d) and (r) of the Admiralty Jurisdiction Act, urged the Court to refuse the application and assume jurisdiction in the matter.
In a well-considered ruling, the presiding Judge, Justice Polycarp held that the argument of defence counsel on jurisdiction was misplaced and of no moment that the Industrial Court being a specialized court created for expeditious determination of all labour and employment-related matters exercises its jurisdiction to the exclusion of any other court in this country (including the Federal High Court).
Justice Polycarp stated that the case of Mr. Akuroma falls within the circumscribed jurisdiction of the Industrial Court being claims relating to the health and safety of a worker while onboard a ship and working for the firm.
The Court ruled that section 2(3)(c)(d)&(r) of the Admiralty Jurisdiction Act Cap. A5 LFN 2004 offends section 254C of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, and declared same as void to the extent of its inconsistency with the constitutional provisions vesting Industrial court with exclusive jurisdiction over labour and employment-related cases.