The Presiding Judge, Lokoja Judicial Division of the National Industrial Court, His Lordship, Hon. Justice Sanusi Kado has set aside the compulsory retirement of Ajani Omotosho as well as the dismissal of the Busari Niyi and Danjuma Omale from the service of the Independent National Electoral Commission, ordered reinstatement and payment of all entitlements including salaries and allowances from 4th January 2018 till date within 30 days.
The Court held that the determination of the employment of the Claimants did not follow due process and it was done in flagrant violation of Staff Conditions of Service.
From facts, the claimants stated that while going on about their normal official duties they received query letters from the Defendant-INEC through the Resident Electoral Commissioner of Kogi State based on a picture that was trending on the internet purporting to show the Niyi and Omole (2nd and 3rd Claimants) in a group as part of the Continuing Voters Registration (CVR) exercise capturing a prominent figure in a centre not approved by the Defendant which they denied knowledge about it.
They submitted that the entire transaction leading up to the purported termination of their employment was in flagrant breach of fair hearing and contrary to the terms and conditions of service and the alleged ground upon which his employment was purportedly terminated was non-existent, not investigated and based on a whim.
INEC contended that the Claimants cannot complain of breach of fair hearing as they were given all the opportunity to make representation oral and written before the disciplinary action was taken against them.
And further submitted that the decision of the summary dismissal of the 2nd and 3rd Claimants and retirement of the Mr Ajani (1st Claimant) was based on the evidence and report of various Committees set up to investigate the matter which was conducted in accordance with the principle of fair hearing and INEC conditions of service.
In opposition, Counsel to the claimants contended that having taken recommendation on the discipline of the Claimants other than from the appropriate Standing Committee, the Defendant has breached the laid down rules for the retirement and dismissal of the Claimants.
Counsel to the INEC maintained that the only existing standing committee for the time being in the Commission that exercise the function of Appointments, Promotions Investigation and recommendation on disciplinary matters to the Commission is the APDC and no any other.
Delivering judgment, the trial Judge, Justice Kado held that the conduct of the Committee has not breached the rule of fair hearing as nothing indicating that the Committees took evidence from anybody or persons apart from the representation of the people that were investigated.
“The Defendant has failed to discharge the burden on it as it has not established before the Court by cogent and compelling credible evidence that there was an amendment of the condition of service where Chapter three that governed discipline was repealed.
“It has not also been asserted that Chapter three has been amended to incorporate provisions of INEC Rules of Procedure to make APDC the appropriate Committee to deal with the discipline of staff. The provision of exhibit G in so far as it relates to disciple only serve as oversight function and no more.
“The mere fact that the Claimants appeared before unrecognized committee clearly shows breach of procedure as provided by chapter three of the condition of service. This shows that the Claimants were never tried. Since the Claimants did not appear before the appropriate Committee it means the requirement of fair hearing has also been breached.
In all, the Court declared the INEC compulsory retirement of Ajani Omotosho and dismissal of Busari Niyi and Danjuma Omale as illegal and unlawful for having been done in breach of the laid down procedure.