Former employers of Zapata Marine Services Nigeria Limited have filed an appeal at the Supreme Court against the decision of the court of appeal, Lagos, which dismissed their fair hearing case in $56 million claim against Tidex Nigeria Limited.
The appeal court had in November 2018 dismissed the appeal and upheld the judgment of the National Industrial Court (NIC), Lagos in the matter that has lingered for over 20 years.
The ex-workers had prayed the court to declare that they have the right to appeal the decision of the NIC, having not been given fair hearing at the NIC.
The former workers had approached the NIC, seeking an order to compel the respondent to pay them the sum of $56 million profit after tax declared by their former employers (Zapata) before the company was taken over by Tidex.
The $56m claim is the 10 per cent of the total profit of $560m declared by Zapata.
But the NIC in its judgment delivered by Justice Babatunde Adejumo (presiding), Justice Benedict Kanyip and Justice V.N Okobi dismissed the appellant's entire claims.
The plaintiff had argued that they had an agreement with Zapata to open Workers Trust Fund which would entitle employees who had stayed up to 30 years with the company to benefit from 10 per cent of its profit, as well as in the event of its winding up as was the case when Tidex took over.
NIC also declined jurisdiction to grant leave to the appellants to appeal the judgment, saying it was the final and apex court on the labour-related matters.
But in a motion on notice, brought pursuant to Order 7 Rule 3 of the Court of Appeal Rules, 2007, section 15 of the Court of Appeal Act and section 242 of the Constitution among others, the oil workers through their counsel, Norrison Quakers (SAN) appealed against the judgment of the lower court.
The applicants specifically accused the respondent of allegedly withholding about $56 million due to them from a trust fund created for employees of Zapata Limited prior to its merger with Tidex.
In a motion on notice, the applicants had urged the NIC to among others, declare that by virtue of the documentary evidence they had provided, there existed a Zapata Marine Workers Trust Fund as opposed to Zapata Marine Employees Shares created under a 1978 Trust which have been redeemed by Tidex having taken over Zapata's assets and liability.
In its response, Tidex denied the existence of any trust fund and urged the court to hold that the suit was speculative.
The firm's director, Ade Williams said in its counter affidavit that there was no time Tidex "took over the management, assets or liabilities of Zapata Marine Services Nigeria (ZMSN) Limited."
He said the merger referred to by the applicants was that which took place between the parent companies in the USA and which did not affect their subsidiaries in Nigeria.