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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 faults compulsory retirement of Solomon from Service, awards N2m damages against Delta Government


628 Thursday 7th September 2023

The Presiding Judge, Asaba Judicial Division of the National Industrial Court, Hon. Justice John Targema has declared the purported compulsory retirement of Mr. Palmer Solomon from service of Delta State Government as unfair labour practice and in flagrant violation of Mr. Solomon’s fundamental right as contained in the 1999 Constitution.


The Court ordered the Delta State Government, the State Attorney General and 4 others to pay Mr. Solomon the sum of â‚¦2 million only as damages for constructive dismissal within 30 days.


From facts, the claimant- Mr. Palmer Solomon had submitted that he was employed by the Delta State Government on 1st September 1979 as a classroom teacher and worked meritoriously without blemish and rose to become a principal in 2010; that the Government on 1st September 2010 wrote a testimonial evidencing that he had 5 years before retirement. 


Mr. Solomon further stated that sometime in January 2013, he went to the office of the Delta State Post Primary Education Board to lay complaint arising from the non-payment of his January salary and he was verbally informed by a staff of the office of the Permanent Secretary of the Board that he had been purportedly retired compulsorily from service on grounds of perjury, falsification of age in his affidavit and forgery.


Mr. Solomon stated that he was never issued any query in respect of any allegation in any manner whatsoever before the wrongful and unjust stoppage of his salary which was supposed to run until 2015.


In defense, the defendant- The Commissioner for Basic and Secondary Education,  Delta State Government, Attorney General and 3 others submitted that any applicant who wishes to enforce his fundamental rights must approach any High Court in the State where the breach took place or anticipated; that Mr. Solomon’s application is incompetent because the right sought to be protected is the right of employment; that Chapter IV of the Constitution does not recognize the right to employment, and urged the Court to decline jurisdiction.


The defendants further maintained that Mr. Solomon's letter of employment is conspicuously missing from the processed filed and the Court cannot determine a dispute arising from employment without examining the contract of employment between the parties, and submitted that at the time claimant instituted the action, his age of retirement had passed and he cannot legally be reinstated as an employee of the 4th Respondent, urged the Court to dismiss the case in its entirety. 


Delivering the judgment after careful evaluation of the submission of both parties, the Presiding Judge, Hon. Justice John Targema dismissed the Commissioner for Basic and Secondary Education, Delta State Government, Attorney General and 3 others' objection and held that the Court has jurisdiction to entertain an application filed under the fundamental rights enforcement procedure rules, and that jurisdiction was donated to her by Section 254C (1) of the 1999 Constitution as amended.


Justice Targema affirmed that the NICN is vested with the requisite jurisdiction, just like other Courts of coordinate jurisdiction, to hear and determine matters relating to or connected with Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules.


The Court held that Mr. Solomon's fundamental right to fair hearing as contained in Section 36 of the 1999 Constitution was flagrantly violated as his purported compulsorily retirement on grounds of perjury, falsification of age and forgery without an opportunity to be heard prior to his purported retirement. 


“The Respondents’ denial is accordingly no denial at all, it is an admission that the Applicant’s fundamental right to fair hearing as contained in Section 36 of the 1999 Constitution was fragrantly violated as his purported compulsorily retirement on grounds of perjury, falsification of age and forgery without an opportunity to be heard prior to his purported retirement. I so find and hold.” Justice Targema ruled.

 

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