Owerri— The Presiding Judge, Owerri Judicial division of the National Industrial Court, His Lordship, Hon. Justice Ibrahim Galadima has nullified the purported employment termination of Mrs. Ogechi Ubani with the Abia State Polytechnic for being unlawful and inconsistent with the provisions of terms and conditions of service as contained in the Abia State Polytechnic Aba Senior Staff Conditions of Service and the Abia State Polytechnic Law.
The Court ordered the Abia State Polytechnic, Rector with immediate effect to reinstate Ogechi to the position she previously occupied on the same grade level and salary she received before her employment was unlawfully terminated with full entitlements and privileges, and payment of Two Million Naira general damages within 30 days.
From facts, Counsel submitted that the Abia Polytechnic and rector – 1st and 2nd Defendants have shown that the Claimant misconducted herself while in the service of the 1st Defendant and same was brought to her knowledge and that she was given a fair hearing to explain or respond to accusations which she elected to willfully disregard that the claims as endorsed on the statement of facts are unfounded, unmeritorious and lack merit as the termination remains valid and ought to be dismissed.
In opposition, learned Counsel to the claimant argued that Claimant was never queried with regards to the allegations made against her, that no notice in writing to the Claimant containing the allegations against her, that claimant was not allowed to present defence urged the Court to hold that the Claimant’s right to fair hearing was breached that those letters tendered by the Defendants were fabricated and that they failed to prove the fact that she received those queries.
The learned Iroanya further submitted that the conditions of service regulating the contract of employment between the Claimant and the institution states clearly that disciplinary measures to be applied in misconduct cases which include suspension, termination, dismissal among others.
Delivering Judgment, after careful evaluation of the submissions of both counsel, the presiding Judge, Justice Galadima found that the Investigative Committee did not breach the Claimant’s right to fair hearing that evidence of query letter inarguably satisfy the Polytechnic Law.
“On a preponderance of the available evidence before this Court, I find it impossible to accept the Claimant’s arguments that she was never served with letters of the query by the Defendants. The burden of proving the existence of those letters was immediately discharged upon the production of the Certified Copies of the letters before this Court.
“With respect to the termination letter itself, the letter dated 27/2/2017 which purportedly terminated the Claimant’s employment with the Defendants was said to be pursuant to Section 117 (a) of the Polytechnic’s Senior Staff Conditions of Service. However, that section deals with “SUSPENSIONS” generally.
“The Defendants have not established that the Claimant was ever given any warning letters by them whatsoever before the decision to terminate her employment was taken. As such, they acted contrary to section 119 (b) of the conditions of service.
“It is correct therefore to state that as far as the measures taken by these Defendants to terminate the Claimant for misconduct is concerned, the Council’s decision was indeed hasty and not based on a subsequent report of a Disciplinary Committee but the investigative committee’s report and this was unlawful.”
Justice Galadima further stated that Ogechi may also be redeployed to another department as recommended by the Investigative Committee in their report submitted to the Council, exculpated her from the allegation labelled against her and restrained defendants from further inquiring.