Awka –His Lordship, Hon. Justice John Targema of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria, sitting in Awka has dismissed the suit filed by Mr. Emmanuel Okonkwo against Federal Polytechnic Oko, Anambra State and two others for being statute barred.
The court held that the suit, having been filed 12 months after the date of accrual of the cause of action, is statute-barred by virtue of Public Officers Protection Act and the right of the plaintiff or the injured person to commence the action have been turned off by law.
The case was transferred from the Federal High Court, the claimant took a writ of summons against the defendants dated 21st February, 2011 prayed among others for; A declaration that the purported termination of the plaintiff’s employment was in breach of Section 17 (1) Federal Polytechnics Act (supra) (sic) as well as Section 36 (1) Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 and therefore unlawful, null and void. A declaration that his employment with the defendant is still subsisting.
Likewise, An order of reinstatement with payment of salary arrear from 2006 till date.
In summary, the claimant alleged an offer of academic appointment by the Governing Council of the Fed. Polytechnic Oko -(1st defendant) on 24th May 2008 as a lecturer III after an interview held on 15th December 2004, which he accepted; that even though the Bursary Department of the 1st defendant compelled the claimant to be signing the monthly returns as proof of receipt of his monthly salary; which as at the time the claimant was sacked stood at the sum of N 123,000.00 (One Hundred and Twenty Three Thousand Naira Only) per month; the claimant was not pay-rolled even though he was working diligently in the aforesaid Department.
That in March 2008, the then Acting Rector unlawfully, wrongly and illegally terminated the appointment of the claimant orally and without recourse to the requirements of the conditions of service and provisions of the Federal Polytechnics Act.
However, the defendants submitted that the claimant and some other persons were victims of a sham recruitment/ employment, which the institution publicly disclaimed and warned members of the public to be wary of the sham recruitment/employment that was going on at that time.
The defendants submitted two preliminary issues for determination as to whether Exhibits by the claimant were not liable to be expunged from evidence on the ground of inadmissibility, and whether this suit is not statute- barred thereby robbing this Honourable court of its jurisdiction to hear and determine same.
The defendants further submitted that there no letter of offer of appointment was ever made by the defendants to the claimant, urged the court to dismiss the suit on the ground that granting same would result in creating an unhealthy precedent.
In argument, the claimant submitted that by virtue of Public Officers’ Protection Act 2016, there is now an increase of the limitation period from 3 months period up to 3 years due to the hardship and injustice it occasions on litigants; that between March 2008, when the claimant was asked to stop work, and February 2011, when this suit was initiated, the claim of the claimant was still alive and not statute barred.
After careful evaluation of all the processes filed, and the submissions of the learned Counsel from both sides, the Court presided by Hon. Justice John Targema expressed thus;
“Any action that is instituted after the period stipulated by the statute is totally barred as the right of the plaintiff or the injured person to commence the action would have been extinguished by such law.
“Therefore, the date of accrual of the cause of action, in my view, is 18th February 2010; and I so hold. Placed against the date of filing this suit, that is, 21st February 2011, that makes it 12 months in between the date of the accrual of the cause of action and the date of filing this suit in court.
“The claimant failed to prove that the Public Officers Protection (Amendment) Act 2016 is with retrospective effect and as such can save the claimant’s suit. Claimant’s submissions on same are accordingly discountenanced, and I so hold.
“Therefore, this suit, having been filed 12 months after the date of accrual of the cause of action, is statute-barred by virtue of Section 2 (a) of the Public Officers Protection Act; and I so find and hold."
The court dismissed the suit in its entirety and made no order to cost.