By Chidi Nkwopara, OWERRI.
The National Industrial Court sitting in Owerri, will, July 5, deliver judgment on the suit, NICN/OW/144/2017, filed by members of Nigerian Union of Pensioners, NUP, Imo State Branch, challenging the slashing and withholding of their stipends by the Chief Rochas Okorocha administration.
Before the presiding judge, Hon. Justice Olufunke Y. Anuwe, fixed the judgment date, he listened carefully to the addresses of counsel on both sides, as well as issued a restraining order on the issuance and circulation of a form titled “undertaking and indemnity for receipt of pensions”, by the state government.
Addressing the court, the pensioners lead counsel, Mr. Wisdom Durueke, said that the new document seeks to coerce the senior citizens to abandon the case in court, as well as sign off 50 percent of their earned entitlements.
“The exhibits so far filed before the court shows that the matter before Your Lordship, is very germane and unimpeachable”, Durueke said.
According to the pensioners counsel, some of the exhibits like press releases from the Governor’s Office, were abundant documentary evidence and admission against interest of the retirees.
He prayed the court to invoke Section 13 of the National Industrial Court Act to ensure that justice was done, adding that “the government cannot Approbate and reprobate at the same time”.
Addressing the court also, the defence counsel, who doubles as the Solicitor General and Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Justice,, Mrs. A. N. Eluwa, described the claimants originating summons as “spurious and disclosing no reasonable cause of action”.
Eluwa equally urged the court to discountenance the further affidavits because they were intended to over reach the defendants, when they had no right of reply.
On why he ordered the state government to stop further circulation of the vexatious form and the NUP from parading or collecting such forms, pending the determination of the matter, Justice Anuwe explained that “the need for the order is to ensure that parties respect rule of law”.