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The court has exclusive jurisdiction in civil causes and matters relating to or connected with any labour, employment, trade unions, industrial relations and matters arising from workplace, the conditions of service, including health, safety, welfare of labour, employee, worker and matter incidental thereto or connected therewith.

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Industrial Court awards N100 million damages against NEMA for wrongful employment termination


1382 Thursday 23rd March 2023

Hon. Justice Osat Obaseki-Osaghae of the Abuja Judicial division of the National Industrial Court has declared the employment termination of Mr. Idumu Adeoti and 3 others representing themselves and on behalf of 32 others from service of National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) as unjustifiable and wrongful.


The Court ordered NEMA to pay Mr. Idumu Adeoti and 35 others all their salaries and allowances from the date of their appointment 24th December 2019 until 25th January 2021; and one month’s gross salary in lieu of notice with the sum of N100,000,000.00 (One Hundred Million Naira) as general damages and N500,000.00 cost of action within 30 days.


Justice Obaseki-Osagahe held that NEMA failed to comply with the rules and regulations guiding claimants’ recruitment into the public service and the reason given by the agency in the termination letters is unconnected with Mr. Idumu Adeoti and 35 others’ performance.


From facts, the Claimants- Mr. Idumu Adeoti and 35 others had pleaded that they participated in the NEMA’s recruitment exercise and were given offers of probational appointment by letters dated 24th December 2019, and upon the issuance of the means of identification, they reported for duty at the defendant’s office daily until June 2020 and waited for deployment.

 

They further stated that they resigned from their various previous employment and have been living without salary since 24th of December 2019 when they were offered appointment with the NEMA till date.


In defense, the Defendant- National Emergency Management Agency averred that it cancelled the 2019 recruitment exercise because of its non-compliance with the procedure and the laid down rules and regulations of the Civil Service, that it reserves the right to review the process and if found wanting, terminate the Claimants’ employment as the employment was still on probation. 


Learned Counsel to NEMA argued that Mr. Idumu Adeoti and 35 others are not entitled to their salaries and allowances because they are on probation and their appointments were terminated according to law. He then urged the Court to dismiss the case for lacking merit.


In opposition, Learned Counsel to Mr. Idumu Adeoti and 35 others, Usman O. Sule SAN and 3 others submitted that the agency has not proved that due process was not followed in the recruitment of their clients and that the law will not protect any person against his own deliberate default or misdeed, urged the court to grant the reliefs sought.


In a well-considered judgment after careful evaluation of the submissions of both parties, the presiding Judge, Hon. Justice Obaseki-Osaghae held that the law imposes on the employer (NEMA) a duty to establish the reason for the termination of the employment of its staff to the satisfaction of the court and the agency’s counsel has not referred to the law that states that an employee who is on probation is not entitled to salary; neither has he referred to the law upon which the termination of the Claimants employment is based.


Justice Obaseki-Osaghae ruled that the claimants having reported for duty daily are entitled to their salaries and allowances for the period 24th December 2019 to 25th January 2021 as bona fide employees of NEMA.


The court held that even though the agency can terminate the appointment of any of the Claimants during their probationary period, the employer still has the duty to justify to the Court that the employee has failed to satisfy the purpose of probation, that it is contrary to international best practices for an employer to terminate the employment of its employee without any reason, or a justifiable reason that is connected with the performance of the employee’s work.


“The Claimants lost their previous employment, their income and livelihood, and have suffered hardship that is still continuing. This is wrongdoing by the Defendant. The law will not protect a person against his own deliberate fault, and will not protect the Defendant in this instance and enable it to benefit from its own wrong-doing.” The Court ruled.


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