From Ron Jacob, Jos
The National Industrial Court (NIC) has ordered the Nassarawa State Government and the Nassarawa United FC to lodge N182.5 million awarded to coaches and players into an interest yielding account before appealing against its judgement.
The amount (N182.544.00) is the total sum the state government owed five of its former coaches and 37 players, being their unpaid salaries and sign-on-fees, but which the court on April 16 ordered the government to pay on or before April 30, 2018.
Justice Kenneth Amadi, the Presiding Judge, gave the order on Tuesday, when the state government told the court that it was prepared to challenge its judgement at the Jos Court of Appeal (COA).
“Before a stay on the matter court could be heard, the money (N182.5M) must first be lodged in an interest yielding account.
“You (Nassarawa State Government) must bring the money here. When you go and lose at the appellate court, the awardees will take the money, but if you win, we give shall give it back to you, ’’ the judge stated.
Amadi then gave the state government Nov. 19 to bring or present the cheque of the said money to the court before its motion on the intention to apply for stay of execution of the judgement of the court would be heard.
Messrs. Paul Hammache and A.G.Yirvoms, counsels to the coaches and players respectively, had challenged the Nassarawa state government’s application to move a motion for a stay of judgement as it intends to appeal at the appellate court.
“My Lord, by the rules of this court, the Judgement Debtor Applicant, can’t move any motion or be heard until and unless the amount awarded is being lodged into an interest yielding account of the court.
“That is the rule and they must do that first before the court can hear them as it relates to the judgement and award to the coaches and players, ’’ Yirvoms argued.
The Judge, who concurred with Yirvoms, however, adjourned the case to Nov. 19 for lodgment of the money and hearing of the motion filed by the state government.
Recall that the coaches and players had separately sued the state government and the club over their failure to settle their entitlements amounting to N182.5M since 2015.
The coaches are Evans Ogenyi, Sylvester Ekoja, Michael Jatau, Bala Nikyu and El Shammah Inusa.
The Coaches, who are now the Judgement creditors respondents along with the players, had differently served as technical adviser, assistant coach, chief coach, goal keeper trainer and chief trainer before being laid off in 2015 as the 37 players
The two groups had approached the court through their separate Counsel, Messrs Paul Hammachi and A.G. Yirvoms.
In their separate prayers, they had urged the court to compel the club and the state government to pay them the entitlements awarded to them by the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) Players Status/Arbitration Committee on Oct. 10, 2015.
The club and the government, through their Counsel, Usman, the state’s Solicitor-General, had objected to the applications and asked the court to strike them out.
Usman had argued that the plaintiffs’ application lacked merit, saying that the court also lacked jurisdiction to entertain them.
But Justice Amadi, in his judgment, upheld the NFF’s arbitration’s earlier submission in the case.
Amadi held that NFF’s judgment was in order and further argued that the court had jurisdiction to adjudicate on the cases by virtue of section the Constitution 2010 (as amended).
“The issues here border on employment and unpaid salaries and other entitlements.
“By this court and by section 254 of the Constitution, it has the jurisdiction to adjudicate and to enforce any arbitrary award connected and arising from such disputes relating to non-payment of salaries, which is its exclusive right.
“The applications filed by the state government and Nassarawa United FC have therefore failed, and I hereby adopt the NFF Players Status/Arbitration Committee’s Award as judgment for this court.
“I hereby order the respondents (Nassarawa state government and Nassarawa United FC) to pay all the awardees their entitlements in fulfillment of the award on or before April 30, 2018.
“In the light of this, the applicants have been granted leave to enforce this judgment from this date, ’’ the judge held.
Nonetheless, the Nassarawa state government had pledged to do the needful on or before Nov. 19 to enable it appeal the judgment of the lower court at the appellate court.