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Industrial Court declares Imo State Government not contractually liable to pay under Midwives' Service Scheme

294 Thursday 18th February 2021

The Owerri Presiding Judge of the National Industrial Court, His Lordship, Hon. Justice Ibrahim Galadima has dismissed the suit filed by Mrs Celestina Egbukichi against the government of Imo State over entitlement claims under the Midwives’ Service Scheme for lacking merit.

The Court held that the 2009 Midwives’ Service Scheme was a policy statement lacking any binding legal framework on the States and Local Government Areas that subscribed to it, and that no agreement signed by the Federal Government, States Government, and the Local Governments for the deployment of the claimant and no document exists to prove the assertions that Mrs Egbukichi was an employee of the State government.

From facts, the claimant- Mrs Celestina Egbukichi had submitted that there was an agreement between the Federal Government and the State to counter-pay midwives engaged to work in the scheme known as Rural Posting Incentives Allowances.  

That she was engaged to work for the State government and posted to Aboh Mbaise Local Government Area, that the scheme was to last for two years whereupon the State and its host Local Governments were to absorb the midwives’ services and to also take full control of the funding as contained in the MOU; that the State government refused to honour its part of the counterpart payments as agreed upon, and thus urged the court to grant the reliefs sought.

In defence, the State Government counsel, U. A Okwuego Esq submitted that all the documents tendered by Mrs Celestina were inadmissible; that the memorandum of understanding tendered was purportedly visibly undated, and the letters to the Governor were also faulty on the ground that they are not the original documents.

Furthermore, counsel argued that no contract of employment exists between the parties and thus urged the court to dismiss the suit with punitive costs.

In opposition, Egbukichi’s counsel E. C. Okolo Esq submitted that her letter of transfer to the State government dated 30th October 2015 which was admitted, buttresses that the claimant’s contract was never terminated within two years as argued; and that the content of the said letter testified of the claimant’s performance which the defendant never denied but merely want to abdicate its responsibility for the claimant’s unpaid salaries.

Counsel stated that all efforts made to have the exhibit certified were frustrated by the defendant, urged the court to discountenance the defendant’s submissions for being gravely erroneous and misconceived in the interest of justice.

Delivering the judgment after total evaluation of the submissions of both parties, the Presiding Judge, Hon. Justice Ibrahim Galadima rejected the M.O.U between Imo State and FGN in 2009 tendered stated that the court cannot rely on the uncertified and photocopied document at arriving at a decision and also held that the said exhibit is inadmissible, probably unreliable and unsafe for reference. 

The Court also overruled the State government’s objections to the admissibility of the letters to the Governor of Imo State and Commissioner for health because the government was equally given the notice to produce the originals.

“The only way the claimant may have succeeded in this action is by producing an agreement directly with the defendant to establish an employment relationship. Anything short of this is unacceptable. 

“The defendant never directly extended any offer of engagement of services to the claimant at any point in time and there is nothing on record to show that the claimant at any time accepted any offer of employment from the defendant.” Justice Galadima

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