The Presiding Judge, Kaduna Judicial Division of the National Industrial Court, Hon. Justice Sinmisola Adeniyi has dismissed the salary entitlement claimed by Prof Ndukaeze Nwabueze against Ahmadu Bello University for lacking merit.
The Court held that Prof Nwabueze’s sabbatical appointment with the University has come to an end due to frustration and not entitled to the reliefs claimed.
From facts, the claimant- Prof Ndukaeze Nwabueze had submitted that his appointment by the ABU was a full-time sabbatical appointment for a year, and after he assumed duty, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) embarked on strike, coupled with the Covid-19 global pandemic which resulted to the lockdown and consequent closure of public institutions.
According to Prof Nwabueze, shortly after the ASUU strike was called off, he reported for duty and began lectures but contended that the University refused to pay his salary despite his demands, and urged the court to grant the reliefs sought.
In defense, the Defendants- Ahmadu Bello University and its Governing Council maintained that Prof Nwabueze did not discharge his obligations under the contract as same was frustrated by the ASUU strike and Covid-19 lockdown, and did not complete his documentation after assumption of duty, and was only introduced to the students on 08/02/2021 but did not lecture.
In opposition, Prof Nwabueze’s counsel argued that the ASUU strike and Covid-19 lockdown do not constitute supervening events which can be said to have frustrated his client's sabbatical appointment, thereby disentitling him from being paid the arrears of his salaries and other staff of the school were paid.
Delivering the judgment after careful evaluation of the submissions of both parties, the presiding Judge, Justice Sinmisola Adeniyi held that a contract which is discharged on the ground of frustration is brought to an end automatically by the operation of law, irrespective of the wishes of the parties.
The Court disagreed with Prof. Nwabueze's assertion that the ASUU strike and Covid-19 lockdown, do not constitute supervening events which can be said to have frustrated his sabbatical appointment.
Justice Adeniyi held that the University and the Governing Council have validly raised the defence of frustration of contract that whilst the employment of the University witnesses is full-time and governed by the statute, that of Prof Nwabueze is a contract of employment governed by his letter of appointment.
“As contained in Exhibit C1, the Claimant’s sabbatical appointment is non-renewable; it commenced on 09/03/2020 and was to be terminated on 08/03/2021, that is, a period of one year.
“Therefore, the Claimant having not completed the documentation to place him on the payroll of the 1st Defendant for his salary, before the Covid-19 lockdown/ASUU strike and having not resumed lectures until 08/02/2021, which was a month to the end of his sabbatical appointment, the Defendants have validly raised the defence of frustration of contract.”