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The court has exclusive jurisdiction in civil causes and matters relating to or connected with any labour, employment, trade unions, industrial relations and matters arising from workplace, the conditions of service, including health, safety, welfare of labour, employee, worker and matter incidental thereto or connected therewith.

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Industrial Court faults 2013 removal of Michael Okon from payroll, orders immediate restoration


257 Friday 12th August 2022

The Presiding Judge, Calabar Judicial Division of the National Industrial Court, Hon. Justice Sanusi Kado has ordered Cross River State Universal Basic Education Board to immediately reinstate and restore one Michael Okon back to the salary payroll and begins payment of his salary as and when due.


The Court held that there is no evidence adduced by the board to show that it conducted any disciplinary hearing or action against Michael in line with the Public Service Rules which govern his employment. 


Justice Kado held that Michael Okon's arrest and detention amount to temporary incapacitation, which was not a voluntary action, that absence from duty as a result of arrest, detention, and prosecution may not be a breach of regulation, since it cannot be said that the employee voluntarily absented himself from work; awarded the sum of N300k cost of action against the Education board.


However, on Michael’s claim for arrears of salary from 2013 till date, the court ruled that Michael has not stated the amount he is entitled to as his arrears of salary, and the claim was refused.


From facts, the claimant- Michael Okon had submitted that his employment was confirmed on 1/5/2002, and was wrongly arrested and detained by the police in his community; while in detention, his name was deleted during the personnel audit. 


Upon being discharged, he wrote to the board requesting reinstatement of his name back to the payroll but all to no avail, sought the order of the court for reinstatement and payment of salaries from March 2013 till date and Two Million Naira (2,000,000,00) cost of litigation.

 

In defense, the defendant- Cross River State Universal Basic Education Board argued that Michael Okon was not at his duty post when the personnel audit exercise was carried out, and there was no representation made on his behalf, to know his whereabout and was considered to have absconded from his duty which attracts serious misconduct by virtue of the public service rule, and urged the Court to dismiss the case for being frivolous.


In opposition, the claimant learned counsel, Martha Henshaw Esq submitted that the allegation that his client did not inform the board of his arrest and detention until after he had been discharged is not true, urged the court to grant the reliefs sought.


Delivering the judgment after careful submission of both parties, the presiding Judge, Justice Sanusi Kado held that before the defendant can validly discipline the claimant for any alleged breach or misconduct, the claimant is entitled to be accorded the right to be heard, and no iota of evidence to show that the board conducted any disciplinary hearing or action in line with the Public service Rules which governs Michael’s employment.


The Court ruled that Cross River State Universal Basic Education Board has also not been able to establish that Michael’s contract has been terminated or dismissed, as there was no such evidence before the court.


“I do not see how it will be possible for the claimant who was arrested and put into detention will be accused or be blamed for not informing his employer of his arrest and detention when his liberty has been curtailed. 


“The duty of informing the claimant’s arrest and detention lies on the shoulders of the arresting and detention authorities, the claimant shall not be made to suffer for the inaction of others.


“The claimant has not absconded from duty as the defendant wants the court to believe. Therefore, the claimant is entitled to have his name restored back to the payroll of the defendant. More particularly, when the claimant is still in the employment of the defendant because his employment had not been appropriately determined by the defendant.” Justice Kado ruled.


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