Enugu – His Lordship, Hon. Justice I. J. Essien of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria, Enugu Judicial Division on Wednesday 21st November 2018 in a judgment granted an order of perpetual injunction restraining IGBO-ETITI LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA (defendant) from interfering with the employment of ECHELUNKWO JOHN O. & 90 OTHERS (claimants), ordered court registrar to compute the total entitlement of the claimants in a lump sum manner and serve along with the order of judgment in this suit on the defendant within 7 days.
The claimants in this suit commenced this suit by a writ of summons in 2010 in the High Court of Enugu state. The suit was transferred to this court sometimes in 2013. The claimants in the amended statement of claim filed on the 22nd March 2011 and sought against defendant among others; A declaration that the defendant is in breach of contract of employment it entered with the plaintiffs in 2002. An order for the immediate payment of the sum of N242,900.00 (Two Hundred and Forty-Two Thousand, Nine Hundred Naira) per plaintiff being the arrears of their minimum gross salary from September 2008 to –December 2010 at the rate of N8,675.00 per month per worker. Likewise, An order of perpetual injunction restraining the defendant from interfering with the employment of the plaintiffs.
The claimants who are 91 in number were alleged to have been employed by the defendant in 2002 and were posted to departments in the defendant local government. They alleged that sometime on the 29th may, 2010 the agents of the defendant prevented the claimants from further attending to their official responsibilities. The defendant is alleged to have subsequently advertised the position of the claimants for employment. The claimants' counsel wrote to the defendant complaining about their action and later served a notice of intention to commence an action against the defendant. The defendant is alleged to have ignored.
Claimant testified that the defendant continued in its act and this led to their approaching the High Court of Enugu state which by an order issued on the 13th September 2010 restrained the defendant from going ahead with the said interview. Despite the order which was served on the defendant the defendant went ahead to conduct an interview to fill their already occupied offices in the defendant.
The case of the defendant is that it never employed the claimants’ that is why their names are not on the payroll of the defendant. The defendant case is also that they published vacancy for employment vides public notice after getting the approval of the Governor of Enugu, Barr. Sullivan I. Chime and also favourable recommendation of the local government service commission, Enugu State. That they do not owe the claimant any arrears of salary.
During cross-examination, the former Secretary of the defendant Local Government in 2002 when the claimants were employed in his evidence, confirmed that the claimants are full employees of the defendant and that they have not been paid salaries and other entitlements notwithstanding that they were working for the Local Government.
The defence of the defendant is that the claimants were never employed by the defendant and the defendant never issued any letter of appointment to the claimants and that the claimants’ names are not in the payroll of the defendant.
In his evidence in chief DW1 Charles Ibokedi who said he is an Assistant Administrative staff testifies that there was an embargo on employment of staff including junior staff from 1999 to 2002 by the State Government and as such there can be no employment of junior staff in lgboEtiti Local Government Council within the period the claimants alleged that they were employed by the defendant council.
After careful analysis of all the processes filed, and the submissions of the learned Counsel from both sides. The Court presided by Hon. Justice I. J. Essien expressed thus;
“The story of the Defendant witness that no approval was given for the employment and that due process was not followed is false.
“It is the position of this court that the mere fact that a subsequent approval for employment which the defendant acting on same conducted interview and subsequently employed another set of junior staff in flagrant disobedience and disregard of the order of Enugu State High court restraining the conduct of another interview did not in any way affect the employment of the claimants.
“It is also the finding of this court that there was full compliance with section 60 and 61 of the Local Government Law, CAP. 109, Laws of Enugu State, 2004 and Section 2, paragraph 020207 of the Enugu State Public Service Rules 2014, dealing on Procedure for employment of persons on grade levels 1 to 6 into the Public Service of the State.
“On the strength of the above state of facts this court hereby holds that the claimants were duly employed by the defendant and failure to pay them their due salaries is a breach of the contract of employment still subsisting between the claimants and the defendant.
The Court granted an order of perpetual injunction restraining the defendant from interfering with the employment of the claimants.
The court ordered defendant to immediately pay claimants respectively of all the arrears of their allowances from April 2002 to 1st August 2008, the sum of N242,900.00 per claimant, being the arrears of their minimum gross salary from September 2008 to –December 2010 at the rate of N8,675.00.
His Lordship also ordered the Registrar of this court to compute the total entitlement of the claimants in a lump sum manner and serve along with the order of judgment in this suit on the defendant within 7 days.