His Lordship, Hon. Justice Sanusi Kado of the National Industrial Court, Abuja judicial division has dismissed the severance benefit claim on redundancy filed by Ushie Fidelis and 11 others Suing in a representative capacity for themselves and on behalf of the 4029 disengaged staff of the National Identity Management Commission against the Attorney General of the Federation, Hon. Minister of Finance and the commission for lack of proof.
The Court held that it was erroneous for the disengaged staff to based their claims for severance benefit or take-home pay on the resolution of the Senate of the 7th Assembly that a resolution of the Senate can only be binding if such resolution has been enacted into law, but so far as it remained resolution it is mere advisory to the executive who has the discretion of accepting and acting on it or not.
From facts, the claimants had submitted that they were entitled to the payment of severance allowances after their disengagement in 2012 on redundancy that the commission exercised its discretion and paid off the officers ‘meagre and paltry sums’ without regard to the rules of disengagement of the public service.
The learned counsel to the claimant J. O. Obono-Obla, Esq opined that following the claimants' disengagement on the ground of redundancy, they wrote a petition to the National Assembly. The National Assembly conducted a public hearing on the petition, and after listening to both the claimants and the management of 1st defendant, the National Assembly resolved and approved the payment of a severance allowance of one-year salary take-home benefit to each of the 4,029 disengaged staff of the 1st defendant that the Secretary to the Government raised a memo to Mr President in July 2013, attaching the resolution of the Senate and obtained Mr President’s endorsement for implementation of the resolution.
In defence, the commission stated that following the declaration of redundancy in 2012, a favourable severance package was negotiated with all the unions in agreement with the terms and conditions that the claimants were paid severance benefit in accordance with statutorily budgeted and approved appropriation Act 2012, urged the court to dismiss the case that Senate Resolution cannot override statute in Nigeria.
In reply, Counsel contended that the refusal to produce the memo by the defendants after notice had been given to produce would mean if produced would be against them, contended that the 1st defendant failed to comply with the mandatory measures or steps laid down by labour Act.
He maintained further that if the court did not accord value to a resolution of National Assembly and letter of the clerk to Secretary to the Government will violate constitutional provision on checks and balances among the 3 tiers of government urged the court to grant the reliefs sought.
Delivering judgment, the trial Judge, Hon. Justice Sanusi Kado held that a party who seeks a declaratory relief must succeed on the strength of his case and not on the weakness of the defence, if any.
“It is to be noted that a claim for entitlement in labour law must be based on instrument or condition of service that granted such entitlement. Therefore, for the claimants to succeed on a claim for severance or take-home pay, they must show to the court where such entitlement was provided or granted by the condition of service which in this case is the claimants' letters of employment and the Public Service Rules, which was made applicable to the claimants' employment as per their various letters of employment.
“The Senate of 7th National Assembly not being a party has no right to by resolution interferes in the agreement to which it is not a party. That position if accepted will amount to interference with the executive function.
“The resolution of the senate being a recommendation to the executive cannot be ground of making claim without showing that the executive has approved such a claim. The failure of the claimants to prove approval of the senate resolution by the president is fatal to their case.”