Court dismisses N1.3b suit against WAEC, others

The National Industrial Court sitting in Lagos has struck out N1.3 billion pension increment claim against the West African Examination Council (WAEC), the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, and four others by Registered Trustees Of Waec Pensioners Welfare Association for lacking jurisdiction and reasonable cause of action.

It described the Registered Trustees of WAEC Pensioners Welfare Association as meddlesome interlopers as there was no disclosure of the claimant’s standing or its interest in the cause of action in the statement of facts and supporting documents.

Others listed in the suit dismissed by the court were the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning; Zainab Ahmed, Minister of Education; Adamu Adamu, Director-General of National Pension Commission (PenCom), Aisha Dahir-Umar.

In a ruling delivered on Thursday, Justice Ikechi 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.

Nweneka added that Malami was not a necessary, proper, or desirable party to the case, and his joinder was unsustainable as there was no allegation made against the Federal Government of Nigeria or his personality in the suit.

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The judge noted that the 1st Defendant, WAEC, was not an agency of the Federal Government, notwithstanding the application of the Pension Reform Act to it.

According to the judge, since WAEC was not a trade union, it 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”.

During proceedings, 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.

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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 – 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.

WAEC’s counsel 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.

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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.

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