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Industrial Court dismisses Bailiff’s employment termination claim against Federal High Court

Hon. Justice (Prof.) Elizabeth Oji of the Lagos Judicial Division of the National Industrial Court has dismissed the allegation of unlawful dismissal from office filed by former bailiff, Mr. Patrick against the Federal Judicial Service Commission and the Federal High Court for lack of proof.

The Court held that Mr. Partick has not placed anything before the Court to establish that his dismissal was contrary to his terms of contract or any statute, and has not established the veracity of the facts deserving of the reliefs sought.

From facts, the claimant- Mr. Patrick had submitted that his dismissal from the employment of the Federal High Court by the Federal Judicial Service Commission based on an affidavit of service deposed as a bailiff of court in judicial proceedings wherein the said Affidavit of service had not been set aside, nullified or voided by the court is prejudicial against his right to fair hearing as enshrined under section 36 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (As Amended).

In defence, the 2nd Defendant- Federal High Court averred that Mr. Patrick was issued a query for falsely deposing to an affidavit of service when he did not carry out any service, and the Court was not satisfied with the responses and a report was submitted to the Chief Registrar requesting for disciplinary action. Mr. Patrick appeared before the Senior Staff Committee to defend himself against the allegations of serious misconduct and was recommended for compulsory retirement.

Upon forwarding the matter to the FJSC for consideration, the Commission deliberated on the matter and resolved that Patrick be dismissed with immediate effect for serious misconduct.

The 1st Defendant- Federal Judicial Service Commission argued that the Court lacks the jurisdiction to entertain the suit as presently constituted as the reliefs do not qualify as fundamental rights under section 46 of the 1999 Constitution. The Federal High Court also argued that it would be wrong for an Applicant whose rights originate from an alleged breach of employment contract to sue under the Fundamental Rights Enforcement Procedure and further that the suit was not properly commenced through the right process and the case was statute barred.

In opposition, counsel to Mr. Patrick replied that he was dismissed from service by the FJSC who never heard from him; and that the Federal High Court panel only recommended his compulsory retirement and not dismissal; urged the court to affirm its jurisdiction and grant the reliefs sought.

Delivering judgment, the Presiding Judge, Justice Elizabeth Oji struck out the suit for being incompetent and held that Patrick’s action has not proposed any provision of the Constitution or any other statute or legal document for interpretation that the dispute is contentious, and not one that can be resolved by merely interpreting a section of the Constitution.

Justice Oji reiterated that the Court has the jurisdiction to hear matters relating to the enforcement of fundamental rights, but not where such action is commenced under the Fundamental Rights Enforcement Procedure Rules.

The Court dismissed the suit having been instituted about five(5) years after the accrual of the cause of action, beyond the 3 months statutory duration allowed under the Public Officers’ Protection Act, is statute-barred.

Lastly, Justice Oji held that Mr. Patrick has not placed anything before the Court to establish that he was dismissed contrary to his contract or any statute, and has not established the veracity of the facts in his Supporting Affidavits deserving of the reliefs sought.

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