Hon. Justice Polycarp Hamman of the Portharcourt Judicial division of the National Industrial Court has held that Dr. Felix Mmue has failed to prove his case against Rivers State University bordering on alleged wrongful employment termination as required by law.
The Court ordered Rivers State University to compute and pay Dr. Felix Mmue three (3) months’ salary in lieu of notice as provided in the University’s Regulations Governing the Conditions of Service of Senior Staff within 30 days.
From facts, the claimant- Dr. Felix Mmue had submitted that he appeared before the investigative Panel on three (3) different occasions and none of the accusers alleged to have authored the complaint was invited to testify against him concerning the allegation so as to afford him the opportunity of knowing his accusers and to defend himself.
Dr. Felix furthered that while the matter was still pending before the Investigative Panel, he was excluded from participating in the 2015/2016 Examination till further notice, and subsequently suspended from office on the 29th of June, 2015, and the case referred to the Governing Council for further investigation and his appointment was subsequently terminated on the 5th of October, 2015 and all effort to get reinstated proved abortive.
In defense, the defendant- Rivers State University pleaded that Dr. Felix's employment as Lecturer 1 was temporary for one year, and his employment was terminated because his service was no longer required, and since his employment was a temporary one for the duration of one year, it expired by effluxion of time, and it was terminated by the University.
According to the University, the name of the complainant against any staff of the institution is usually kept secret and/or anonymous and not made public as part of the investigation policy, and also to prevent any interference with the investigation and/or tampering with evidence.
The University submitted that Dr. Felix was given the notice to collect the one month's salary in lieu of notice; it was for him to go and collect the same as the defendant has no business to compel the claimant to collect his entitlement.
In opposition, the claimant posited that by the University of Science and Technology Law, Laws of Rivers State, 2002, it is only the Governing Council of the Defendant that can validly terminate the appointment of a member of staff (whether confirmed or temporary) on the ground of misconduct, urged the court to grant the reliefs sought.
Delivering the judgment, the presiding judge, Justice Polycarp Hamman held that where an employee has served the temporary/probationary period and the employer retains him in its employment and continues to pay him his salaries (as the situation in this case), such an employee will be deemed to have been confirmed and placed on permanent appointment.
The Court held that the University having retained Dr. Felix and continued to pay him salaries after the temporary/probationary period of employment that lasted for more than 1 year, Dr. Felix’s employment is deemed to have been confirmed by the University.
Justice Polycarp reiterated that Dr. Felix having been given a copy of the petition and the allegations made known to him, and also given the opportunity to explain himself, cannot be said to be denied fair hearing simply because the accusers that made the complaint did not appear before the Investigative Panel.
“Having built his case on the alleged denial of fair hearing or failure to observe the principles of natural justice rather than violation of specific terms/conditions of the employment, the claimant failed to show that he was not given fair hearing taking into consideration exhibits CW2, CW3, CW12 and his admission that he appeared before the defendant’s Panel three (3) times to explain himself. I so find and hold." The Court ruled.