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Industrial Court declares demotion, promotion deferment of Barr. Debonair as illegal, faults UNIPORT Teaching Hospital

The Presiding Judge, Portharcourt Judicial Division of the National Industrial Court, Hon. Justice Faustina Kola-Olalere has declared the demotion of Barrister (Mrs) Debonair Abbey from Senior Administrative Officer on CONHESS 09 step 08 to Administrative Officer 1 on CONHESS 08 Step 08 and, deferring her promotion for three years by the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital as wrongful and illegal.

The Court held that the query letter issued by the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital to Barrister Debonair was in breach of the University Teaching Hospital Act, and the Public Service Rules.

From facts, the claimant- Barrister (Mrs) Debonair Abbey had averred that her problem started when she wrote a Letter of Protest to the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital complaining of the illegal and unbecoming activities of the Hospital Director of Admin for being in excess of her duties and complained that the entry qualification of the director was insufficient to place her on a starting `salary of grade level 8 in the Public Service.

To Barrister Debonair, the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital and its Management Board directed that her promotions with other entitlements be stopped without hearing her own side of the story and she was not also informed of the outcome of the Disciplinary Committee’s she appeared before on accusation of making false allegation against her superior officer.

In defence, the Defendants- University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital and its Management Board argued that Barrister Debonair’s protest letter was in breach of the official procedure for communication, that it was wrongly routed which led the Hospital to issue her query after considering the report of the committee, and the Hospital Management Board not being satisfied with her reply, approved appropriate sanction against her.

The Teaching Hospital urged the Court not to rely on the mere assertion of malice and bad faith by the claimant without any evidence and submitted that there was nothing unlawful about the actions of the Defendants and urged the Court to dismiss the case in its entirety.

In opposition, the learned counsel to Barrister (Mrs) Debonair, M. M. Kalu Esq. contended that the query given to the claimant and her demotion were defective in procedure and the alleged acts of misconduct for which his client was punished are not in the Public Service Rules, and urged the court to grant the reliefs sought.

In a well-considered judgment, the Presiding Judge, Justice Faustina Kola-Olalere held that the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital and its Management Board failed to tender the report of the Investigation Committee and the findings and recommendations of the Committee upon which the claimant was queried were not placed before the Court.

Justice Kola-Olalere stated that Barrister Debonair has proved to the satisfaction of the Court that the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital and its Management Board issued her query without following the provision of the University Teaching Hospital Act and that the Board acted on the findings of the Committee it set up without following the procedure stated in the Public Service Rules.

The Court ruled that there is no provision in the Public Service Rule stating that improper routing of the petition amounts to misconduct.

Visit the judgment portal www.nicnadr.gov.ng/judgement for full details

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