Hon. Justice Zaynab Bashir of the Portharcourt Judicial Division of the National Industrial Court has declared the 1st Defendant's action of terminating one Oliver Odoka appointment as wrongful, unjustifiable, illegal and unconstitutional for being contrary to NDLEA Regulations and the provisions of Section 36 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended).
The Court set aside the purported termination of Oliver’s appointment and compelled the NDLEA to reinstate him to his position, including promotion to a deserved rank with payment of all his entitlement, bonuses and allowances which pertain to his rank as Deputy Superintendent of Narcotics.
Justice Zaynab held that the action of the NDLEA violates Oliver's right to fair hearing and the Constitution forbids the imposition of a penalty that is higher than that which is prescribed by law.
From facts, the claimant- Oliver Odoka had submitted that he was queried, suspended and the NDLEA terminated his employment despite proving before the Disciplinary Committee that the allegation against him was false and all his efforts to get reinstatement were to no avail.
In defense, the defendants- NDLEA and 2 Others objected to the suit on the ground that Oliver’s appointment was terminated on the 21st of August 2017 while the instant suit was instituted 3 years after the cause of action arose contrary to the Public Officers Protection Act.
The Counsel to the agency, T. T. Ifugu Esq submitted that the termination of Oliver's employment by the NDLEA was in line with its extant rules and regulations and did not in any way infringe on the provision of the 1999 Constitution.
He further contended that due processes were followed and the Management Disciplinary Committee (MDC) after deliberating on the recommendations of the Senior Officers Disciplinary Committee approved the punishment of Termination of Appointment with the effective date of 8th of August, 2017.
In opposition, Oliver’s Counsel, C. P. Francis Esq contended that the punishment prescribed for the alleged offense his client committed is demotion for a first offender and termination for a second-time offender, and urged the Court to grant the reliefs sought.
Delivering judgement after careful analysis of the submission of both parties, the Presiding Judge, Hon. Justice Zainab Bashir dismissed the defendant’s objection for lacking merit in the face of the position of the law.
The Court held that the query issued to Oliver Odoka clearly states to the effect that his conduct amounted to dereliction of duty and not for conduct prejudicial to Discipline and Good Order, that the NDLEA accorded punishment on an act for which Oliver was not queried.
Justice Zaynab declared that the action of the NDLEA violates Oliver's right to fair hearing and the Constitution forbids the imposition of a penalty that is higher than that which is prescribed.
The Court found that NDLEA, its Chief Executive have not presented any evidence before the court which suggests to the contrary that Oliver was indeed a first-time offender which implies that his punishment ought to be demotion in accordance with Paragraph 13(vi) or 13(vii) of the NDLEA Regulations.
Justice Zaynab held that the NDLEA went beyond the scope of the punishment which can be meted out to Oliver as contended via the agency notice of punishment and in breach of section 36 particularly (1) and (8) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended).
The Court granted an order compelling the NDLEA to pay the sum of N10,732,860.00 (Ten Million, Seven Hundred and Thirty-Two Thousand, Eight Hundred and Sixty Naira) only being the Claimant's accrued salary, allowances and entitlements from his last payment till date of filing the suit and thereafter at a monthly rate of N178,881.00 (One Hundred and Seventy-Eight Thousand, Eight Hundred and Eighty-One Naira) only being the Claimant's salary, allowances until his reinstatement with the payment of the sum of One Million Naira (N1,000,000.00) as the cost of action.
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