Owerri –His Lordship, Hon. Justice Oluwakayode Arowosegbe of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria, Owerri Judicial division has ordered Abia State University to reinstate Mr. Nwankwo Joseph to his position as Senior Security Officer in the Security Department with payment of all entitlements including salaries and allowances from 28th June 2016 till date within 30 days.
The court held that that the Special Committee on Security was not the Disciplinary Committee of the Council to which the claimant must be summoned before his appointment could be terminated.
By complaint filed 27/09/2016, the claimant sought against defendant among others; A Declaration that the Defendant’s termination of the Appointment of the Claimant as Senior Security Officer in the Security Department of the defendant vide the letter dated 28th June 2016 is illegal and unlawful.
Likewise, An Order reinstating the claimant to his said position as Senior Security Officer in the Security Department of the Abia State University.
The claimant having been employed Security Department by a letter dated 1st December 1992 and confirmed by a letter dated 27th July 1999. The claimant was cumulatively promoted to the rank of Senior Security Officer by a letter dated 28th June 2016 and that; it was on this rank that the defendant terminated his appointment by a letter dated 28th June 2016.
The claimant said by virtue of this last promotion, he was a senior staff of the defendant, whose appointment was governed by the Regulations Governing Conditions of Service of Senior Staff (HATISS 06-15)[hereinafter called ‘RGCSSS’] that his termination was contrary to RGCSSS and section 36 of the 1999 Constitution.
The defendant maintained that the reckless conduct of the claimant as security officer led to the breach of security and wanton destructions of lives and properties in the University, that as a result, the defendant set up a Committee for investigation pursuant to Abia State University Law and the RGCSSS, and the Committee found the claimant guilty. The defendant also counterclaimed for the cost of N2,000,000.00 in defending this action.
Chief Theo Nkire Eqs franked the defendant’s final written address and submitted for determination whether, considering the provisions of Paragraph 2 (b) of the Claimant’s contract of employment with the Defendant and other circumstances of this case, Claimant’s employment was not lawfully terminated since the Abia State University Regulation Governing Conditions of Service of Senior Staff on which the Claimant relied was not enacted by the Abia State Assembly as a Schedule to the Abia State University Law nor as a Subsidiary Legislation as required by law?
The defendant argued that claimant lapses gave her the vires to exercise its powers under the contract of service to terminate the appointment.
The defendant further argued that claimant must continue to be governed by the terms contained in his original letter of appointment as junior staff that Conditions of Service of Senior Staff on which the Claimant relied upon was not enacted by the Abia State Assembly as a Schedule to the Abia State University Law.
In response, the claimant counsel Chief Okey Ehieze Esq submitted that the RGCSSS, which governs the conditions of service of senior staff, is subsidiary legislation of the defendant and has statutory flavour, and that, as such; the termination of the claimant’s employment was unlawful.
The Presiding Judge, Hon. Justice Oluwakayode Arowosegbe after careful evaluation held that the conditions of service of the claimant became transmuted by his promotion immediately he crossed the Rubicon of junior staff to the enviable rank of senior staff and expressed thus;
“It is undoubtedly correct proposition of law that the RGCSSS is a subsidiary legislation and conferred the employment of the claimant herein with statutory flavour.
“The defendant cited section 5(1) & (2) of the Abia State University Law as the section that justified the actions she took against the claimant. I have examined this section and cannot find anything in it that gives the defendant the vires to depart from Chapter 2:14 of the RGCSSS.
“This effectively placed a burden of proof on the defendant to show that it complied with these provisions. This, it failed to do, apart from the fact that the Special Committee on Security, was not the Disciplinary Committee of the Council to which the claimant must be summoned before his appointment could be terminated.
“It is hereby declared that the defendant’s termination of the appointment of the claimant as Senior Security Officer in the Security Department of the defendant vide the letter dated 28th June 2016 is illegal and unlawful.”
The court set aside the termination for being illegal and unlawful, ordered that claimant be re-instated to his position as Senior Security Officer in the Security Department of the Abia State University and payment of all entitlements including salaries and allowances owed from the 28th day of June 2016 till date within 30 days.
His Lordship also awarded the cost of N100,000.00 against the defendant.