Indefinite Leave: Court Dismisses First Nation Airways Move To Stop Trial

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The National Industrial Court sitting in Abuja has dismissed the preliminary objection raised by Bellview Airline challenging the competence of the court to hear a suit filed against the airline by some of its former employees.

The airline, which shut down operations following several challenges associated with the crash of one of its aircrafts was bought over by First Nation Airways, believed to be owned by Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

The First Nation Airways also only flew for sometime before going off the skies and the former employees were given indefinite leave of absence without pay when the airline was packing up.

But, the aggrieved ex-employees want the court to declare as illegal, null and void the indefinite leave given them.

Nine former workers of the airline, led by one Reuben Wada, had sued the company and two others demanding for the payment of their entitlements.

Joined alongside Belview as defendants in the suit are First-Nation Airways Support Services Limited and its Chairman, Mr Kayode Odukoya.

They are also praying the court to order the defendants to recall them and pay all their salary arrears since May 2009 to date.

In February when the case first came up, the defendant’s Counsel, Mr. A.B Ige, raised a preliminary objection challenging the competence of the suit.

He also urged the court to dismiss the suit as according to him, the case did not state any cause of action against the defendants.

At the resumed hearing of the matter last week, counsel to the claimants, Mr. Emmanuel Audu, told the court that the claimants were in the employ of Belview Airlines until May 2009 when they were sent on an indefinite leave explaining further that this was because there was no operation at the time.

However, according to him, the airline later began operation with the name, First-Nation Airways Support Services Ltd, while the staff were still on leave. The management of the airline refused to recall the claimants or send them away properly.

He therefore urged the court to dismiss the preliminary objection and order for hearing in the case.

Delivering the ruling, Justice Maureen Esowe declared that the action was in order since it concerned the employment of the claimants with the defendant. She also stressed that the service of writ of summons on the defendant outside the jurisdiction was in order and that there was disclosure of cause of action by the claimants.

Declaring that the issues before the court for determination were whether the parties in the suit were properly joined, she added: “the court therefore holds that the provision of sharing and service rules does not beset the case of the claimants in this suit.”

While adjourning the case till September 17, 2013 for commencement of hearing, the judge said, “the court so holds that there is disclosure of cause of action since the claimants are seeking for a declaration that they are being owed by the defendants.”