The Presiding Judge, Portharcourt Judicial Division of the National Industrial Court, Hon. Justice Faustina Kola-Olalere has dismissed the case filed by one Ms. Deborah against the Board of Management of the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital on alleged wrongful retirement from office for lacking merit.
Justice Kola-Olalere further declared that the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital Management Board complied with the principle of fair hearing in compulsorily retiring Ms. Deborah from service and she (Deborah) has not given the Court any other reason to set aside the letter of compulsory retirement and for payments prayed for.
The Court held that the Investigating Committee/Panel of Inquiry set up by the Teaching Hospital Board to investigate the allegations of misconduct against Ms. Deborah can adequately and has legally carried out its duty in investigating the allegations of misconduct, regardless of the fact that those allegations bother on crime.
From facts, the claimant- Ms. Deborah had submitted that she was compulsorily retired by the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital Board following the report of the investigation committee on the allegations of gross misconduct and an obvious bias instigated by the CMD.
She further averred that the CMD acted as the petitioner, witness, and judge in the event leading to her retirement, that she was not afforded the opportunity to give answers to allegations made against her, and that the Investigation Committee has no jurisdiction to investigate and adjudicate upon the alleged gross misconduct leveled against her, urged the court to grant the reliefs sought.
In defense, the defendants- the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital Board averred that the compulsory retirement of Ms. Deborah was solely as a result of the allegation of gross misconduct and not predicated on the petition of insubordination against her by the CMD.
The learned Counsel to the Hospital Board, E.A. Anika Esq submitted that the Investigation Committee set up by the board conducted its Investigations and came to their respective findings on the allegations brought before it in clear consonance with the principles of natural justice, according to the Claimant and other persons involved the fundamental right to fair hearing.
In opposition, the Claimant’s learned counsel, Dr. Tony Francis for the Claimant with B.N. Emmanuel (Mrs.) averred that, by the composition and membership of the Investigation Committee set up by the Hospital Board, the likelihood of bias was not taken into account as all the members who sat in the Investigation Committee were also Board Members of the Teaching Hospital, and allowing the CMD who was the accuser and petitioner against the Claimant to take part in the proceedings, which led to her compulsory retirement has grossly breached the principle of fair hearing.
In reply, the defendant's counsel submitted that Ms. Deborah and the CMD are by virtue of their positions entitled to attend meetings of the Hospital Board.
Delivering the Judgment after careful submission of both parties, the presiding Judge, Justice Faustina Kola-Olalere held that Ms. Deborah has failed to prove to the satisfaction of the Court that the CMD was a member of the Investigation Panel that investigated her in the instant case and the composition of the said Panel is not offensive to the Principle of Natural Justice.
The Court held that the Chief Medical Director of the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital, the 2nd defendant is not a judge on the investigation, recommendation, and the decision of the Hospital Board that eventually led to the compulsory retirement of the claimant from its service/employment contrary to the argument of her counsel.
Justice Kola-Olalere further declared that the claimant was given an opportunity to make representations in writing before the Panel of Inquiry, prior to her compulsory retirement by the 1st defendant.
In all, the court dismissed the case in its entirety for lacking merit.