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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 nullifies removal of Traditional Ruler, Orders reinstatement


1229 Friday 14th June 2024

The Presiding Judge, Kaduna Judicial Division of the National Industrial Court, Hon. Justice Bashar Alkali has declared the removal and deposition of Chief Jonathan Zamuna from office as the Chief of Piriga Chiefdom in Lere Local Government Area of Kaduna State by the Governor of Kaduna State dated 18th May 2023, as irregular, unfair, null, unconstitutional, and contrary to good conscience.


The Court granted an order restoring Jonathan Zamuna to his appointment and office as the Chief of Piriga Chiefdom in Lere Local Government Area of Kaduna State with all his salaries, allowances, entitlements and benefits of the office within 30 days.


Justice Alkali further granted an order of perpetual injunction restraining the Governor of Kaduna State and its Attorney–General of Kaduna State individually or by themselves, agents, privies, servants or anybody claiming through them from appointing or conferring upon any other person in the place of Jonathan Zamuna as the Chief of Piriga Chiefdom in Lere Local Government Area of Kaduna State without due process of law.


From facts, the claimant- Jonathan Zamuna had submitted that as a Traditional Ruler, and a member of the Kaduna State Council of Chiefs, the Governor of Kaduna State and its Attorney–General of Kaduna State did not avail him any opportunity of appearing before any panel, commission or body of enquiry to inform him of the allegations and his response thereof before unilaterally deposing him as the Chief of Piriga Chiefdom.


In defence, the defendants- Governor of Kaduna State and its Attorney–General of Kaduna State averred that Jonathan Zamuna was issued with a letter of query which he never responded to, and the Government followed due process as provided for under the Constitution and Kaduna State Traditional Institution Law, 2021 before deposing Chief Jonathan Zamuna.


The defendants maintained that it was Jonathan Zamuna's failure to respond to the query within the 48 hours given to him that made the Ministry to write to the State Governor recommending his deposition which was approved; and urged the court to dismiss the case in its entirety.


In opposition, the Claimant's counsel, Napoleon O. Idenala Esq re-stated that his client was not personally served with any query as he was away in Kaduna mourning the death of his wife, preparing for the burial and receiving condolences from the public including the Kaduna State Governor.


Delivering judgment after careful evaluation of the submission of both parties, the Presiding Judge, Justice Bashar Alkali affirmed the jurisdiction of the court and held that the payment of the monthly salary to Jonathan Zamuna upon his appointment as the chief of Piriga Chiefdom or as an officer in the public service of Kaduna State who received salaries from the coffer of the State Government of Kaduna State brings the termination of his appointment to the realm of the jurisdiction of the Court.


The Court stated that the appointment of Jonathan Zamuna as Chief of Piriga Chiefdom by the Kaduna State Government has created a contract of employment or service pursuant to the Constitution in which only the National Industrial Court of Nigeria has exclusive jurisdiction thereof.


Justice Alkali reiterated that it is not the business of the Court to consider the weight of the allegation against Jonathan Zamuna, but the Court is bothered about whether Jonathan Zamuna was afforded a fair hearing before the administrative decision of the Defendant which removed Chief Jonathan Zamuna from occupying the stool of Piriga Chiefdom.


Justice Alkali stated that there is nothing before the Court that the query letter was communicated to Chief Jonathan Zamuna who was out of the chiefdom at the time the query was received by the secretary of the Piriga Traditional Council and there is no pinch of evidence before the Court to hold that Chief Jonathan was aware of the said query.


Justice Alkali held that it would amount to a denial of fair hearing if the Court should validate the Governor of Kaduna State and its Attorney–General of Kaduna State's decision which deposed Chief Jonathan Zamuna.


“It is therefore the finding of the Court that the service of Exhibit MLAG2 at the secretary of the Piriga Traditional Council without evidence of the transmission of the same to the Claimant even when the Claimant was not within the chiefdom cannot be a sufficient service on the Claimant. The Claimant was not given a fair hearing before stripping him off the traditional title of Piriga chiefdom.” The Court ruled.

 

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