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Industrial Court declares Ojukwu University lecturer dismissal as wrongful, orders payment of 29 Months salary arrears within 30 days

366 Friday 12th February 2021

Awka---The Presiding Judge, Awka Judicial division of the National Industrial Court, His Lordship, Hon. Justice John Targema has declared the dismissal of Barr V. O. Okeke from Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University as wrongful, converted same to termination with effect from 28th June 2017.

The Court ordered Ojukwu university to pay Bar. Okeke the arrears of his salary from 11th February 2015 to 28th June 2017 and salary in lieu of notice within 30 days.

From facts, the claimant’s had submitted that he was suspended from work in 2015 and was notified of his dismissal in 2017, stressed that the Exit-Report was not served on him and was not issued with any query or warning or given an opportunity to present his case or to defend himself or to refute the allegation of misconduct against him, urged the court to grant the reliefs sought.

In defence, the university submitted that Bar. Okeke was given a chance to be heard that the existence of Disciplinary Committee Reports and its content was not at any time challenged by the claimant; that the claimant was invited before the disciplinary committee and had a chance to explain himself; that claimant was given a chance to obtain clearance from relevant institutions but failed to do so within the specified period, urged the court to dismiss the claim for lacking merit.

Learned counsel to the university, J.C. Mbah Esq contended that Bar. Okeke has failed to satisfy the provisions of the relevant laws with respect the pre-action notice urged the court to dismiss the suit for lack of jurisdiction.

In opposition, Okeke’s counsel J.I. Igu Esq urged the Court to hold that the suspension and subsequent dismissal of the claimant by the University was improper and invalid.

Delivering the judgment, the Presiding Judge, Justice John Targema dismissed the objection on pre-action notice and held that fair hearing was not breached by the University in the circumstances of the case.

“Having found that Exhibit C3 (which is the letter of suspension) punished the claimant for the alleged infraction and in view of the fact that unbridled pursuit and not criminal intent can be inferred from the claimant’s conduct, outright dismissal by section 9.7 (ii) (b) of Exhibit DW1/9 is accordingly too harsh in the defendants meting out the disciplinary action against the claimant.  Same is accordingly wrongful. I so hold.

“The dismissal of the claimant, being higher than that prescribed, is accordingly a higher punishment given to the claimant. The proper punishment is termination in accordance with section 9.6 (1) of the defendant’s conditions of service, not dismissal.  I so hold.”

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