The Presiding Judge, Awka Judicial division of the National Industrial Court, Hon. Justice John Targema has nullified the purported demotion and subsequent employment termination of Mr. Kenneth Meze from Nnamdi Azikiwe University for being wrongful, contrary to rules and regulations governing conditions of service, arbitrary, and breach of principles of fair hearing.
The Court ordered the Nnamdi Azikiwe University and its Governing Council to immediately reinstate Mr. Kenneth Meze to his employment and position with payment of salary, allowances, and other entitlements from November 2010 at N124,539.08 (One Hundred and Twenty Four Thousand, Five Hundred and Thirty-Nine Naira Eight Kobo) per month till date.
Justice Targema further granted an order of injunction restraining the Nnamdi Azikiwe University and its Governing Council, their agents, servants, and privies from disturbing Mr. Kenneth in the exercise of his duties as a lecturer in the University.
The Court ruled that Nnamdi Azikiwe University and its Governing Council did not strictly adhere to the University Act and the Senior Staff Conditions of Service before summarily dismissing Mr. Kenneth from their service.
From facts, the claimant- Mr. Kenneth Meze had submitted that he was not given fair hearing by the defendants before the purported termination of his employment; and prayed that all the other punishments meted to him be set aside.
In defense, the defendants- Nnamdi Azikiwe University and its Governing Council submitted that Mr. Kenneth has failed woefully to establish how his right to fair hearing was breached before his appointment was terminated; argued that the dismissal was dut to misconduct, and urged the Court to dismiss the case in its entirety.
The learned counsel to the University averred that a party who fails or refuses to take due advantage of an opportunity to be heard will not be heard by a Court if he turns around to latch on the principle of fair hearing being denied to him.
The University urged the Court to resolve the issue in their favour and to hold that Mr. Kenneth was afforded a fair hearing and his employment was terminated in line with the University Act.
Delivering the judgment, the Presiding Judge, Justice John Targema held that once an employee is dismissed, the employer must justify the dismissal. The duty to justify the dismissal of an employee lies on the employer, the defendants in the instant case.
The Court held that the evidence elicited from witnesses against Mr. Kenneth by the Investigation/Intelligence Security Department and the SSDC is all hearsay evidence and not the direct evidence of the alleged victim and a dismissal or termination of appointment based on allegations or hearsay without credible evidence or proof of same cannot stand in law.
Justice Targema ruled that the defendants’ justification of Mr. Kenneth’s dismissal based on hearsay is accordingly untenable and the defendants did not comply with the disciplinary procedures under Chapter 13 (7) of the 1st defendant’s Senior Staff Conditions of Service and Section 17 (1) of the Nnamdi Azikiwe University Act.
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