NIGERIAN PORTS AUTHORITY Continues To Flout Court’s Order To Reinstate/Deploy Trainees And Pay 11 Years (Owed) Salaries Disobeying Court’s Order a Serious Threat to Rule of Law

On 22 May 2013 Hon. Justice Abang of the Federal High Court Lagos, ruled that the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) should deploy to their respective departments, several trainees/employees of the NPA technical training centre who had successfully completed their technical training in 2007. The Judgment was pronounced in a suit brought by the employees against the NPA following its refusal to deploy them to their respective departments and refusal to pay their salaries. Since the time of the Judgment and up till now (over two years), the NPA has persisted in flouting the Order of the court.

The Federal High Court recognised the subsistence of the trainees/employees employment with NPA and held that by their conditions of service they were established staff, and that the continued refusal of the NPA to deploy the trainees/employees to their respective units and departments and pay their salaries for many years, (at that time 9 years), is unlawful, wrongful and illegal. The Court ordered that the trainees/employees be immediately deployed and the unpaid salaries be paid as claimed. The Court, in disapproving of the actions of the NPA, said that the conduct of the NPA, being a government agency depicts a gross abuse of official power, is reprehensive to the extreme and shows gross disregard for the rule of law.

The judgment of the Court came as a ray of hope for the trainees/employees who have endured, at this time, 11 wrenching and traumatic years waiting for justice, and hoping for reprieve for the unspeakable hardships they have suffered by the actions of the NPA.
The lives of these trainees/employees have been broken and have remained so over a long, endless period now. Many of them are now destitute, and live from hand to mouth, and then only from the charity of friends and relatives. Amongst them are many whose families have disintegrated due to privations and hardships, and those whose children have long been out of school because of the circumstances of their parents. The extent and ramifications of what these trainees have endured is hard to imagine. It is extremely inequitable, unjust and unfair to make these Nigerians wait a day longer before the injustices against them are remedied.

Access to Justice calls on President Buhari to request agencies and parastatals of government to adhere to the rule of law and to respect the orders, decisions as well as the authority of courts; we further urge the President to hold accountable, any agency or institution that comes short of this standard, as part of the government’s commitment to democratic and governance reform. In particular, the Buhari administration should create the precedent for its own commitment to the rule of law by directing the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) to respect and comply fully with the judgment and orders of Justice Abang now in the case brought by the trainees/employees of the NPA until an appellate court otherwise directs.

Besides this, a strong pillar of the present administration’s economic agenda is the reduction of unemployment in Nigeria through job creation. The flouting of the Orders of a competent court by the NPA is creating a de facto state of unemployment for Nigerian youths who are otherwise already in employment, thereby exacerbating the chronic unemployment situation in the country. This is in direct conflict with the declared policy of this government on employment. The NPA must not be allowed to continue ridding rough-shod over Orders of competent courts or to display wanton intransigence and disregard for the very principles that form the bedrock of an organized and democratic nation that is based on the rule of law.

The NPA has appealed the Judgment since 2013, but no court has granted a stay of execution of the High Court’s judgment. Until a stay is granted, the NPA is obligated to comply with the Order of Court! The unique and needless sufferings of the trainees/employees in the meantime must end now.

Joseph Otteh                                 Mrs Osaro Chukwuemeka
Executive Director                          Counsel, Access to Justice.