Julius Berger Loses Bid To Eject 7,200 Workers At Magistrate Court
...As workers await justice 14 years after
SAN FRANCISCO, April 14, (THEWILL) – A leading Construction company in Nigeria, Julius Berger, at the weekend lost the bid to eject about 7,200 workers who were declared redundant in 1999 at the Abuja Magistrate Court, Wuse 2.
Counsel to Julius Berger, Kennedy Aireruor and Femi Okunnu had in the motion on notice brought pursuant to the inherent jurisdiction requested for an order for withdrawal by plaintiff/applicant of the suit" against the sacked workers on the 20th March 2013.
The Counsel to the workers, Sepribo Peters of God's People Legal Consult, via a letter sent through Julius Berger Counsel, rejected the offer of N30 million for settlement out of court in the bid to take possession of the affected property.
While ruling, the presiding Judge, Igboi Anthony who struck out the application filed by Julius Berger noted that the application "is like a prayer brought before a cripple to help push an abandoned car. You will be mocking the cripple. The application is infected with disease more dangerous than HIV/AIDS which I have no cure for, so is accordingly struck out."
The elated workers who lauded the Magistrate's judgement, expressed optimism that the case which is presently before the Supreme Court, will bring succour to the affected workers and over 50,000 dependants.
Emmanuel Esike, chairman of the sacked workers said "the judgement was fantastic, so we thank God for using the judge. The judiciary has renewed the hope of last man, the hope of the hopeless today. It then means the prayers of the workers of Julius Berger since 1999 till date has never been in vain. We thank God, we have flooded them right from Magistrate Court; High Court, they took us to Appeal Court in Kaduna to accelerate the hearing, we flooded them, they came up here again.
They know fully well that the case is standing before a Court of jurisdiction, they came to Magistrate Court to see how they can manipulate things. They sent out workers who had served them meritoriously for 30 years, since 1999 till today by June 16 it will be 14 years this struggle has been on.
"The Appeal Court asked them to maintain status-quo but I don't know what is really happening honestly. Some lawyers with due apology, I don't know whether they came out of any classroom or they bought their certificates from a supermarket, as we experienced here today, I don't really know, but I have asked my workers to retire back to the camp and enjoy the grace of God and the Court; let them maintain peace because two wrongs cannot make right."
On his part, Kennedy Aireruor, Counsel to Julius Berger said "the Magistrate has ruled to his understanding of the law, so I don't have any qualms about the ruling.
"He (Magistrate) said we did not follow the standard channel but of course, it followed the right channel. The matter was assigned by the chief Magistrate of the Court, so it was his duty to hear it but since he said he doesn't have the file and the file cannot be found, we will go back to the CJ and write the CJ that the necessary action should be taken.
"The implication of not getting the file is that, I don't want to indict the judiciary of not keeping their records straight. But the implication is that we have to start afresh, we have go to the CJ. It is the law, that if the file cannot be found, if you have your own file (the lawyers) you can reconstitute the file, nothing wrong in reconstituting the file. If my learned colleague on the other side want to do justice, he has some of the files and we have some of the documents. This is matter of the poor oppressing the rich or the weak the rich using the instrumentality of the law.
"How can you stay in somebody's house for 13 years, you are not paying rent, you are not paying the utility consumed, and you still want to stay there permanently. It is absurd, it is subterjuce--- on the side of the defendant. That is my take I don't have any problem with the judgement. I agree with the judge, the Magistrate has said --- but that it is not her duty to assign this matter to the Magistrate."
While reacting, Counsel to the workers, Sepribo Peters, explained that the "Learned Judge aptly captured the mind of the law.
He said "The learned District Court Judge had aptly and perfectly captured the mind of the law. That application in the first place ought not to have been brought. It was ridiculous to have brought that applicationm the learned district court judge said it was an attempt to ridicule a cripple by asking him to push a very big truck abandoned there, in fact if there's worst scenario to describe the attitude in bringing this application, it ought to have been employed.
"Because to have asked a Judge before whom no case was pending, to withdraw a case is to ask hom to do an impossible task. To put something on nothing is an impossible task, and for the person to stand and pronounce judgement. I think my learned colleague did it to insult the intelligence of the Judge and its very, very unfair, he did it to ridicule the judiciary, in fact the issue of missing file was not even before the Judge because there was no affidavit stating that the file was missing, it was his oral evidence of Counsel that a file was missing.
"There was an affidavit that Julius Berger's filed, there was no did not state any file was missing and we even stated it quite clearly that even for the Court to rely on that, the lawyer ought to be in the witness box to be cross examined because was not speaking under oath when he was saying the file was missing, so who is even sure the file was missing when that statement was not made under oath? And it was not for the court to take judicial notice of file missing when there was no evidence before that court. So infact, the learned trial judge was very very very gracious to have even talked about the missing file. Missing file was speculative; missing file was just an opinion of the learned Counsel that a file is missing, he did not even tell us the Registrar of the Court he went to that told him the file was missing. So it is improper for him to say he wants to indict the judiciary.
"There was no basis for such ridiculous reasoning. Indict the judiciary for what, who told you that, that file was missing, what is the name of that Registrar or you went to a Registrar without name may be along...partially constitute because the records of proceedings may not be with us, the file, so if he said he's having some and we have some that is even an indictment that his own documents are also missing."
"Which line of action? If they have abandoned their case, in fact from what even the lawyer was saying, the case might have been struck out, it might have been dismissed and himself is not even know. He did not even know much about the case. That's why he has come to ridicule the case by saying strike out the case, to strike out which case? What is the stage of that case now? Is it for judgement? What were the things that were said records, even this Court is going to be bound by record, this is not a trial that should be sisusensu that should start denovo. When you say a trial should start denovo which means, when a High Court or a superior court had nullified the proceedings of that court. So in it means there was nothing before that court, but in this case, if a case is transferred from one judge to another it means that the new judge is still bound by the decision of the previous judge. So now, how do we know the proceeding, what the Judge had said what are the decisions of previous judges on the matter? Are those documents suppose to be with him, because he has the file. If he says those documents are with him then he must be the one that's hiding the file. But you know I discovered that he's essentially looking for a scapegoat instead of facing the truth. He asked settlement out of court, this is his letter and we said okay let us discuss. They came to me and said they will want to pay my fee but how do you pay my fee? You did not employ me and you did not settle my Client, and is it not the corruption we are talking about?
So is it not the corruption we are talking about? So many times I've been approached on how to compromise their interest and I said no. I'm saying it with all amount of boldness and I said these are poor Nigerians that I will not compromise their interests its not that I'm very rich, but their should be sanity in this society if they need those they can bribe they should go and bribe them but certainly not me. I told him and he wrote a letter that i should concede if they can get N30 million for them and the rest we know how to bring out something for me and I said no. So I wrote a letter to him where I said for purpose of sanity and transparency, let them set up a committee made up of both Julius Berger staff and their own principal officers so that this issue will be thrashed out even if they are giving them one naira and the people said they accept and I said fine. But I won't take even N10 billion and sell my conscience but others may do it but I cannot. That is the situation here. For him now to say we are begging for settlement, we are staying in that house.
We are staying in that house, one, if you talk about equity, yes because we are working there, threatening to declare some persons redundant without mentioning any persons name, the Judge say those declared redundant and who are those? There was no list, there was nowhere they have even published the list attached to that document. They said those declared redundant and before then we were already in court and the court even gave an order. And Juilius Berger being what they are, its like its a Nigerian Court, what is Nigerian court, by the time I talk to one or two persons I will be able to influence the court. Is that not? So they now went, violated the orders of the Court, placed them on redundancy and after placing them on redundancy they (Julius Berger) brough 1,400 mobile policemen to sack them without an order of court. Why were they doing that, because of the feelings that yes, afterall its Nigeria we have corruption going on there.
So we do all that we want to do, we give them money and in the court they will lose and lose but for God's sake some of us whether, Nigeria or no Nigeria, we have our integrity to protect before God. And of course I would have taken money and compromise this case quite a long time but I won't do it for the whole gold in South Africa, I won't do it. So when they now declared them redundant when the matter was in the court we now went back to court and the Court said declaring them redundant."