The Presiding Judge of the Enugu Judicial division of the National Industrial Court, Hon. Justice Oluwakayode Arowosegbe has nullified the purported employment termination of one DR. A. J. Ujam from the Enugu State University of Science and Technology; ordered his reinstatement with payment of all the arrears of salaries from March 2015 till date.
The Court held that the proceedings of the SSDC that led to the employment termination of Dr. Ujam with regard to the procedures specified in Statute 22(7)(a) of the Enugu State University of Science and Technology Law v. S. 36(1)&(2) of the 1999 Constitution, cannot enjoy the benefits of the presumption of regularity in favour of official acts, and for patent illegality against the Constitution.
From facts, the claimant- Dr. Ujam had pleaded that his suspension and termination was done contrary to the Statute of the University Law and the situation has made him suffer both psychological and financial traumas; sought for his reinstatement, and the sum of 25 Million Naira damages among others.
In defense, the defendant- Enugu State University of Science and Technology counterpleaded that after a plenary trial in which Dr. Ujam participated, he was found guilty of misconduct and his employment was terminated on 13th March 2015 in compliance with all relevant laws that Dr. Ujam did not suffer any injury as alleged.
Furthermore, the learned counsel to the University, C. C. Okolo with C.O. Agbo and Nnawike Nwodo submitted that the invitation for investigation, not a trial, which Dr. Ujam admitted under cross-examination, is enough to validate his employment termination because an investigation is the real duty of the Committee by virtue of the University Law; urged the Court to dismiss the suit with punitive cost.
In opposition, Dr. Ujam learned counsel, Professor Achara argued that the suit is strictly based on the failure of the university and its council to follow the laid down procedure that his client employment termination was done breach of fair hearing, urged the court to grant the reliefs sought.
Delivering the judgment, the presiding judge, Justice Oluwakayode Arowosegbe after assiduous evaluation of the submissions of both parties held that Enugu State University of Science and Technology Council is a domestic tribunal with quasi-judicial jurisdiction bound to observe the rules of natural justice enshrined in the Constitution to make the victim know his offence with the punishment attached and be afforded opportunity to react to same before deciding his fate.
Justice Arowosegbe held that SSDC did not give Dr. Ujam the right to defend himself nor furnish him with the allegations against him or the punishment for the unrevealed allegations.
“I do not see how the opportunity to defend himself could be said, to have been given to the claimant, when there is no concrete evidence that, he ever knew the allegations on which the SSDC investigated him and when Statute 22(7)(a) clearly provided that, the right to allow him to defend himself is at the discretion of the joint committee [the SSDC]! This is weird and turns on anachronistic vestiges of fettering the rights of employees, which apart from being offensive to S. 36(1)&(2) of the 1999 Constitution, as earlier indicated, is also highly repugnant to the ILO Convention 158.” Justice Arowosegbe ruled.