From Abel Leonard, Lafia

In a pivotal legal battle, the Court of Appeal in Makurdi, Benue State has scheduled March 19, 2024, as the date for hearing the Nasarawa State Government’s appeal against a landmark ruling by the National Industrial Court.

The ruling mandates the state to disburse over one billion Naira in gratuities to members of The Patriotic Union of Local Government Pensioners of Nasarawa State. This development marks a crucial juncture in the ongoing struggle for pensioner rights and fiscal responsibility within the state.

The National Industrial Court Makurdi in a ruling by Justice Isaac Essien on 28th July 2023, ordered three banks to pay a group of 170 retirees their gratuities with immediate effect from the accounts of Nasarawa State Government.

Not satisfied with the verdict, the Nasarawa State Government approached the Court of Appeal.

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When the case came up on the 25th of January 2023, counsel to the appellant and the Director of Civic Litigation Nasarawa State Ministry of Justice, Mr. Yahaya Ede stated that their decision to file an appeal against the judgment of the lower court was in line with the law.

He alleged that the lower court did not give them a fair hearing before arriving at its decision.
“I have no doubt that the Court of Appeal will do the needful. Notwithstanding, the counsel to the 170 retirees has attached over one billion Naira and probably shared the money to the retirees. If we are successful at the Court of Appeal, no doubt they will refund the money,” Ede said.

Counsel to the Respondents, the Patriotic Local Government Pensioners Union of Nasarawa State, Mr. Sunday Okpalle argued that the appeal was filed without seeking the leave of the court as required by law hence the need for the court to strike it out.
” All that they have been doing by filing those processes was to stop us from executing the judgement of the National Industrial Court. But by the grace of God, we have been able to execute the judgment. We have paid all the 170 retirees their money. The main judgment that we have enforced has not been appealed against,” Okpalle added.

The Presiding Judge, Justice Cordelia Jombo Offo after listening to both the parties, adjourned to the 19th of March 2024 for a hearing of the suit after striking out motion filed by the Nasarawa State Government for a stay of execution of the ruling of the lower court and motion ordering the refund of the money already paid to the retirees.

Justice Jombo Offo also struck out three separate applications filed by the Nasarawa State Government and the 13 Local Government areas of the state, Nigeria Union of Pensioners and 9854 others seeking leave of the Court to appeal against the ruling of the National Industrial Court of the 28th July 2023 for lack of juristic parties in the suit.