Akure – His Lordship, Hon. Justice Adunola Adewemimo of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria, Akure Judicial division has nullified the purported demotion of Mrs. Chinaka Maureen from Magistrate 1 to Registrar Cadre by Ondo State Judicial Service Commission, ordered reinstatement without loss in rank and seniority or of salary, increment and promotion with payment of all her arrears of full salary and allowances from 14th of September, 2017 till date.
The court held that the signatory of secretary to the commission to the claimant letter of promotion to Senior Registrar I and letter of conversion to magistrate 1 at the material time, merely acted as a messenger and no more.
On the 8th December 2017 the claimant approached the court and sought against defendants among other; A DECLARATION that the claimant’s suspension by the Defendant is illegal, unlawful and ultra vires for failure to comply with due process.
Likewise, AN ORDER reinstating the claimant to the position of Magistrate I in the employment of the Defendant without loss in rank and seniority or of salary, increment, and promotion with effect from the 14th September 2017 being the date of the purported suspension of the claimant by the Defendant.
The Claimant’s case was employed as a Senior Registrar II vide a letter dated February 28, 2013, and the appointment was confirmed in 2015. The Claimant stated further that she was promoted to the post of Senior Registrar I Grade Level 12 on January 1, 2016, and was thereafter converted to a Magistrate and was sworn in by the then Chief Judge of Ondo State on 11th of August, 2016.
The claimant averred that she was served with a suspension without pay in 2017 despite not having been issued with a query or indicted for grievous misconduct, on an allegation of perceived irregularities in her appointment and was not given any opportunity to defend herself.
The claimant pleaded that she appealed to the Defendants to reconsider its decision, but rather than recalling her back to her position of Magistrate I, the Defendant served her with a Letter of Reinstatement back to Registrar Cadre, a development which she viewed as a demotion. She avers that her suspension and subsequent demotion to Registrar Cadre was malafide, and an unfair labour practice contrary to International Labour best practice.
The Defendant’s submitted that the appointment of the claimant as a Magistrate was not done in accordance with the law and regulations guiding such, as it ran contrary to the Ondo State Judicial Service Commission Law.
The Defendant stated that the suspension of the claimant is not vindictive or discriminatory or in breach of right to fair hearing and the decision to reinstate her to the Registrar Cadre is not a demotion, but to regularize her appointment.
Learned counsel stated that the Claimant was not interviewed before her purported conversion from Senior Registrar I to Magistrate 1, neither was her conversion ratified nor adopted by plenary. The learned State counsel submitted further that the Secretary to the Defendant who issued the letter of conversion to the claimant does not have any mandate to appoint Magistrates or any other officer or staff of the Commission above grade level 07.
After careful evaluation of all the processes filed, and the submissions of the learned Counsel from both sides, the Court presided by Hon. Justice Adunola Adewemimo expressed thus;
“It is important to note that the defendants have not denied anywhere in the processes filed or record of proceedings the authenticity of the letter of conversion dated 30th March 2016 tendered by the claimant. The only issue the defendants have been insisting on is that due process was not followed in the conversion of the Claimant to Magistrate I.
“The question as to whether or not there was indeed a plenary on 29th March 2016 would have helped to clear the issue on ground, but the defendant witness seemingly cannot remember the plenary of 29th March 2016, this creates a serious doubt on the duty of the Defendant to rebut the content of the letter of conversion.
“The response of defendant witness is surprising, knowing that the non-ratification of the conversion of the claimant by plenary is the core of the defendant’s case.
“In any case, this court is precluded from going on a voyage of discovery fishing for evidence for parties.
“The law is trite that when any judicial or official act is shown to have been done in a manner substantially regular, it is presumed that formal requisites for its validity were complied with.
“It is based on the above premise that I find from the preponderance of the evidence in this case that indeed the Claimant was converted from Senior Registrar I Grade level 12 to Magistrate Grade I Level 12 with effect from 1st January 2016 and her reinstatement to the Registrar cadre is null and void. I so hold.
The court held that the signatory to Exhibits M4 and M5 who was the secretary to the commission at the material time merely acted as a messenger to the Defendant and no more.
His Lordship ordered that claimant is entitled to be reinstated to the position of Magistrate I without loss in rank and seniority or of salary, increment and promotion with effect from the 14th September, 2017 being the date of the purported suspension by the Defendant, that be paid all her arrears of full salary and allowances from 14th of September, 2017 to date.