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[Compulsory Retirement]: Industrial Court dismisses suit against Bayelsa Judicial Service Commission for lacking merit

98 Thursday 17th December 2020

The Presiding Judge, Yenagoa Judicial division of the National Industrial Court, His Lordship, Hon. Justice Bashar Alkali has dismissed the suit filed by Mr. Andrew Jonathan against Bayelsa State Judicial Service Commission for lacking merit.

The Court held that the retirement of Jonathan’s from the employment of Bayelsa State Judicial Service Commission was done in accordance with the Public Service Rules regulating Jonathan’s contract of employment and in observance of the right to a fair hearing.

From facts, the claimant’s- Andrew Jonathan had submitted that he was issued a query over misconduct, responded and denied the allegation. He further averred that on the 21st day of February 2013, the commission withdrew the criminal proceedings against him and the matter was struck out that he wrote to the commission requesting for rescission of the order of interdiction and restoration of his salary, but all to no avail.

He stated that he was later given a letter of compulsory retirement and averred that the disciplinary committee never at any time after the withdrawal of the criminal proceeding against him sit to deliberate on the matter neither was he given an opportunity to be heard or be given the mandatory notice of compulsory retirement as required by law.

In defence, the commission opined that the Jonathan was in attendance o at the disciplinary committee sittings and was comprehensively heard orally and in writing without complaints on the charges of misconduct against him that upon conclusion of the disciplinary committee, the allegation of misconduct was established the Defendant pronounced its verdict which in effect disciplined the claimant by compulsory retirement.

Learned counsel Mr. M.A. Idaiyi Esq submitted that the claimant has failed to plead and prove the necessary facts and particulars in proof of his claim urged the court to dismiss the case.

In opposition, learned counsel to the claimant, Mr. I. J. Akpolu Esq with E.V. Agai Esq argued that the claimant has led credible evidence that his compulsory retirement was done not in accordance with the principles of natural justice and the Public Service Pension Board Law urged the court to grant the reliefs sought.

After scrutiny of the submissions of both counsel, the trial judge, Justice Bashar Alkali held that the burden of proving wrongful termination or dismissal of a contract of employment rests on the shoulders of the employee who claims such wrongful action of the employer.

“Therefore, from the records of this court and the evidence placed before me, the Claimant was given every opportunity to defend the allegations made against him. It’s on record that he made both oral and written representations before the panel. And the Claimant in the cause of cross-examination admitted that administering the oath of allegiance and oath of office is not within his schedule of duty.

“On the issue of query issued to the Claimant that same has not complied with the format in the Public Service Rules, what is of essence is the substance and not format. The Claimant had understood the allegations labelled against him. And he had responded to the said allegations.

“The claimant made heavy weather on the fact that the decision to compulsorily retire him was taken in his absence. There is no provision in the Public Service Rules which states that the Claimant must be present before the panel can take any appropriate sanction against the Claimant.