The Hon. President of the National Industrial Court, Hon. Justice Benedict Kanyip, OFR has dismissed the case filed by Director, Monitoring & Enforcement Unit, Okechukwu Odunna Esq against the National Lottery Regulatory Commission challenging his indefinite suspension from service for being premature.
Justice Kanyip advised Okechukwu Odunna to allow the disciplinary process against him run its course, that indefinite suspension becomes unlawful only if it is unreasonably prolonged by the employer.
From facts, the claimant- Okechukwu Odunna Esq had submitted that his purported suspension with no futuristic event to which it is tied, such as a pending investigation or a terminal date for the suspension, is contrary to section 030406 of the Public Service Rule, that the stoppage of his salary, while his employment subsists, is an act of inhumanity and against his welfare and wellbeing, as guaranteed by the 1999 Constitution and the provisions of the African Charter on Human Rights.
In defense, the defendants- National Lottery Regulatory Commission and its Director General averred that the HCSF subsequently directed the Governing Board of the agency to constitute a committee to review all allegations leveled against Mr. Okechukwu and submit the report of findings and recommendations to the Board Chairman for implementation.
The defendants added that based on the findings and recommendations of the committee, the agency was satisfied that a prima facie case has been established against the claimant as a result of which the agency considered it necessary in the public interest to prohibit the claimant from carrying out his duties by suspending him from service in line with the Public Service Rules, that it is premature for Mr. Okechukwu at this stage to argue that his right to fair hearing has not been given since he was only suspended and not dismissed.
Delivering judgment after careful evaluation of the submission of both parties, the presiding Judge, Hon. Justice Benedict Kanyip held that the law allows an employee to sue for suspension where he can make a case for it; and the yardstick for challenging the suspension is whether the suspension is necessary, reasonable, valid, and lawful, that the claimant will succeed only if he shows the suspension to be unnecessary, unreasonable, invalid and unlawful.
Justice Kanyip ruled that the suspension of Mr. Okechukwu is regulated by the Public Service Rule and the rule states that suspension should be applied where a prima facie case, the nature of which is serious has been established against the officer and it is considered necessary in the public interest that he/she should forthwith be prohibited from carrying on his duties.
The Court ruled that the argument of Mr. Okechukwu that he was not afforded a fair hearing holds no ground as the rules of natural justice do not even apply in cases of suspension.
“In the instant case, the claimant was suspended on 22 September 2021, and he came to this Court on 23 November 2021, making it a period of two months that he was suspended before coming to court. This is certainly not unreasonable as to make the suspension unlawful. I so hold.”
“Accordingly, I must agree with the defendants that the claimant must allow the disciplinary process to go the whole hog. This he did not do by coming to this Court as he did. In other words, he is prematurely before this Court. I so hold." The Court ruled