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Industrial Court orders Nigerian Army to approve Voluntary Discharge of Corporal Raymond, nullifies rank deduction

The Presiding Judge, Uyo Judicial Division of the National Industrial Court, Hon. Justice Salisu Danjidda has nullified the purported summary trial and reduction in rank of Raymond Ibiamu from Corporal to Lance Corporal by the officer of the Nigerian Armed Forces, the Nigerian Armed Forces Council, the Nigerian Army Council and Chief of Army Staff as a breach of his right to fair hearing guaranteed by the rules of natural justice.

The Court declared the refusal of the Nigerian Armed Forces, Chief of Army Staff and 3 others to process Corporal Raymond Ibiamu’s application for voluntary discharge as unlawful and a breach of the terms and conditions of service guiding his employment.

Justice Danjidda ordered the Nigerian Armed Forces, Chief of Army Staff, Brig. Gen. T. A. Lagbaja and 2 others to process and approve the voluntary discharge of Raymond Ibiamu in line with Armed Forces Harmonised Terms and Conditions and compute and pay his gratuity, pension and other benefits accruable to him as a Corporal and the sum of N500,000 cost of action within thirty days.

From facts, the claimant- Lance Corporal Raymond Ibiamu had submitted that he was enlisted into the Nigerian Army in 1997 and he rose through the ranks and was promoted to the rank of a Corporal in 2014.

Lance Corporal Raymond further stated that he was charged for seeking redress against a superior officer and a decision was passed reducing his rank from Corporal to Lance Corporal and 14 days imprisonment with hard labour.

Lance Corporal Raymond averred that he applied for voluntary discharge from the Nigerian Army in accordance with the laid down procedure and having served for 18 years but his application was not approved.

In defense, the Defendants- Nigerian Armed Forces, Chief of Army Staff and 3 others denied all the allegations and stated that Lance Corporal Raymond abandoned his duties and not entitled to the reliefs sought.

The Defendants contended that by the Armed Forces Act, the court lacks the jurisdiction to entertain the suit on the ground that Lance Corporal Raymond failed to exhaust the internal remedies available to an aggrieved soldier before instituting an action, and urged the Court to dismiss the case in its entirety.

In addition, Counsel to the Nigerian Armed Forces contended that the Armed Forces of Nigeria’s harmonized Terms and Conditions of Service for Officers prohibits payment of salaries and allowances to soldiers who do not merit the same or abandon service.

In opposition, the counsel to the claimant, Bem Hanaze Esq argued that asking the Nigerian Army authorities to sit as a judge in their refusal to discharge his client upon application would make no sense, and averred that the reduction of the rank of Raymond Ibiamu from Corporal to Lance Corporal was done in breach of the rules of natural justice and fair hearing as guaranteed under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

In a well-considered judgement, the Presiding Judge, Hon. Justice Salisu Danjidda held that the action of the Nigerian Armed Forces, Chief of Army Staff and 3 others penalising Lance Corporal Raymond Ibiamu when he sought redress against his superior officer goes contrary to the Armed Forces Act and the Nigerian Armed Forces, Chief of Army Staff and 3 others cannot invoke the provisions of the Armed Forces Act to contend that Lance Corporal Raymond did not exhaust the internal mechanism before Instituting the action.

Justice Danjidda affirmed jurisdiction and strongly expressed that Lance Corporal Raymond Ibiamu’s right to institute the suit cannot be taken away by the provisions of the Armed Forces Act as his earlier efforts to seek redress against his wrongful detention were met with strong admonition, ill-treatment and threats.

The Court stated that the ill-treatment of Lance Corporal Raymond by the Nigerian Armed Forces is reprehensible and the entire process leading to his reduction of rank violates the established principle of fair hearing.

“It is evidently established by the Claimant that the attitude displayed by the officers of the Defendants raises a case of bias, hostility and ill-treatment against the Claimant.” Justice Danjidda

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