Dr Ode Okore who was the newspaper’s foreign correspondent at one time and also in charge of The Guardian North American Bureau in New York, had in August 1986 sued the newspaper before the Lagos State High Court for wrongful termination of his employment. However the case was struck out in its 26th year by the state high court, over lack of jurisdiction following the amendment to the 1999 Constitution (Third Alteration Act 2010), which took effect on March 4, 2011.
Okore however filed a fresh one before the National Industrial Court, Lagos Division in August 2013, which was struck out in March 2017, after which, the unrelenting journalist filed a third one in November 2017. The Nigerian journalist in a new twist of event, was then awarded $99,599 and N3m in the 33-year-old case which Justice Nelson Ogbuanya presided in.
Punch reported that the Judge who dismissed the preliminary objection of the newspaper that the case was statute-barred, misconceived, frivolous, vexatious and constituted an abuse of court processes, held that it was not Okore’s fault that the state high court struck out his case, which had lasted 26 years in court, before the constitution was amended to strip the high court of jurisdiction.
“I find that the interval between the striking out and re-filing of each of the successive two suits has not been up to or more than six years prescribed by the extant limitation law. In fact, each occasion has been for a period not more than one year. I so find and hold.
“In the circumstance, I find no merit in the preliminary objection challenging the competence of this suit on the grounds of its being affected by limitation statute. Accordingly, same is hereby dismissed, I so hold,” the judge held.
“The defendant is liable and shall pay to the claimant the United States Dollars in the sum of $34,200 (outstanding unpaid allowances); $15,399 (Special damages – unreimbursed costs and expenses in the course of duty); and $50,000 (general damages); totaling $99,599.
“Defendant is liable and shall pay to the claimant in naira, the sum of N2m being damages for the wrongful termination of his employment. Cost of this action in the sum of N1m shall be payable by the defendant to the claimant. Monetary payments in this judgment shall be paid within two months of this judgment.
“Otherwise, 10 per cent interest per annum shall accrue on the sums due until finally liquidated. Judgment is entered accordingly,” the Judge added.