The Presiding Judge, Yenagoa Judicial Division of the National Industrial Court, His Lordship, Hon. Justice Bashar Alkali has declared the removal of Miss Awarah Ebiaremene from the Nominal and Pay Rolls of the Federal University, Otuoke and her dismissal from service as unlawful, null and void, ordered immediate reinstatement with payment of her salaries from October 2016 till date.
The Court held that the failure of the Institution to comply with the laid down procedure(s) for the determination of Awarah employment raises an issue of vires and Administrative Law, and not just of contract, and renders anything done in disregard of the statute, null and void.
From facts, the Claimant-Miss Awarah had stated that her appointment was transferred to a pensionable appointment and took effect from November 27th 2012 and submitted that she has not been paid monthly salary and allowances since October 2016. That during the staff verification of August 2016, she orally took an excuse to go home because her mother had taken ill and needed to take her mother to the hospital.
The Claimant stated that when she returned, she made efforts to get verified, including writing to the Governing Council, but yielded no fruit, then continued to resume at her duty post for a while even after her salary had been stopped but stopped when she could no longer afford the transport fare to work. She insisted that she was not a ghost worker.
In defence, the defendants averred that Claimant has not been receiving her monthly salary because she has been absent from work without leave and was not available during the staff verification exercise conducted by the university. That the purpose of the verification exercise was to ascertain ghost workers within the university workforce which led to the removal of her name from the Nominal Roll by the Governing Council of the institution to underscore its displeasure.
Defendant Counsel Ukari E. Oduma Esq maintained that the termination or other measures taken against the Claimant by the Defendants were in order, and submitted that it was in vain for the Claimant to be asking for any reliefs against the Defendants when she had willingly misconducted herself against the interest of the Defendants without tenable justification.
In opposition, Claimant’s Counsel C. O. Kentebe Esq contended that the Claimant’s employment is not held at the pleasure of the Defendants and as such the Defendants cannot unilaterally terminate the employment without adherence to the statute governing the employment.
Delivering judgment, the presiding Judge, Justice Alkali held that where an employment relationship is coated with statutory flavour, strict adherence to the provisions of the enabling or governing laws must be undertaken when dealing with or determining such employment.
"It is an elementary principle of fair hearing that where a person or the Claimant, as in this instant case, is to answer allegations of misconduct against him, such person must be allowed the opportunity to confront his accusers and cross-examine them on the allegations. Anything outside this is an infringement of the person’s right to a fair hearing.
"The Defendants have failed to adhere to the strict construct of the Statutes in the circumstance, the removal of the name of the Claimant from the nominal and payroll without recourse to the procedure set out in Regulation 7.7(L) of the Junior Staff Condition of Service is ultra vires the powers of the Defendants and therefore null and void, and I so hold.
"All the evidence before points to the fact that the Defendants violated the very regulation which they made to regulate the disciplining of an employee. They tried to be clever by half when they continued to misguide the Court as to the current status of the Claimant after the removal of her name from the nominal/payrolls of the university.
"The Claimant was, in essence, abandoned and left to dry with no explanation or response for well over one (1) year. It makes it apparent that the Defendants do not have any viable defence to the claims of the Claimant."