The Presiding Judge, Abakaliki Judicial Division of the National Industrial Court, Hon. Justice Oluwakayode Arowosegbe has nullified the purported employment termination of Marshal Ofeh Ikpor's appointment from the Federal Road Safety Commission and ordered for his reinstatement.
The Court ordered the Corps Marshal & Chief Executive, Federal Road Safety Corps and Federal Road Safety Commission to pay Marshal Ofeh his arrears of salaries from 2013 at the rate on which he was before the termination of his appointment till date; with the sum of N5Milllion (Five Million Naira Only) as general damages for defamation, and N1m cost of action within 30 days.
Justice Arowosegbee held that Marshal Ofeh's purported trial, conviction, and subsequent termination were products of witch-hunting and the defendants-employers are imputed with the knowledge that, the defamatory verdict for which the claimant had been terminated would be an albatross on his subsequent employment quests.
However, on the relief for promotion, Justice Arowosegbe ruled that Marshal Ofeh had not proved his entitlement to promotion, that entitlement to such must be particularized and proved to the hilt.
From facts, the claimant- Marshal Ofeh Ikpor had averred that his employment was terminated out of malice on alleged misconduct, without giving him fair hearing, and non-compliance with the FRSC Regulations 2005.
He pleaded that the Board of Inquiry [BOI] and the FDC exonerated him and the second BOI was constituted in his absence and without compliance with procedures for which, the Secretary refused to sign the second recommendation and the committee did not confirm the termination, as required by law.
In defense, the defendants- Corps Marshal & Chief Executive, Federal Road Safety Corps and Federal Road Safety Commission counterpleaded that Marshal Ofeh was not exculpated at any given time by the BOI and there was no setting up of second BOI and no evidence of malice and reopening of the case was necessary to admit some exhibits that were left out at a previous date.
They also counterpleaded that, the failure of a member of the BOI to sign the report was an oversight and had no effect on its validity that, the claimant enjoyed fair hearing and they complied with all procedures throughout the trial while the claimant also failed to appeal the decision within time; urged the court to dismiss the case.
In opposition, the erudite counsel submitted that the FRSC Regulations 2005 did not support the jettisoning of the recommendation of the BOI and, the setting up of another one for the same offence that had earlier been tried and concluded that, such types of termination contrary to the procedure, must be declared a nullity, and urged the court to hold so.
On the question of irregularities in the procedures of Marshal Ofeh's dismissal, the agency counsel submitted that dismissal could be valid without BOI, and as such, the absence of the recommendations of the BOI is not fatal to the dismissal, if indeed, there actually were two BOIs.
Delivering judgment after careful evaluation of the submission of both parties, the presiding Judge, Justice Oluwakayode Arowosegbe set aside the purported employment termination and held that FRSC cannot terminate public employment without giving a justifiable reason for doing so.
Justice Arowosegbe ruled that the law demands strict adherence to disciplinary procedures in employment clothed with statutory flavours and any deviation leads to the nullity of such disciplinary measures.
“Where, as in this case, the instrument of termination of statutory employment fails to give reason for the termination, being contravention of Article 4 of the ILO C158, a statutory contravention of a mandatory procedure of termination, the termination becomes null and void and, is liable to be set aside in employment clothed with statutory flavours.
“It does not matter that, the letter of termination did not mention any reason for the termination, what matters is its proximity to the termination and, the claimant has successfully proved, it is actually the cause of the termination and the defendant has admitted this, but justified it thus, aggravating the defamation.”