The Presiding Judge of the National Industrial Court, Uyo Judicial division, His Lordship, Hon. Justice Mahmood Namtari has nullified the purported retirement of SUNDAY OKON UDOSEN and four other police officers by the Inspector General of Police from the Nigeria Police Force, ordered for their immediate reinstatement, payment of salaries, allowances and other entitlements from January 2007 till the date within 90 days.
The Court held that the Inspector General of Police and the Police Service Commission as bodies responsible for taking decisions affecting the rights and obligation of the police officers are duty-bound to observe the rules of natural justice as enshrined in the Constitution.
From facts, the claimants were enlisted for training at the police college and were recruited as Police Constables (PC) and posted to serve in the Akwa Ibom State Police Command as specialists.
That they were never queried or subjected to any disciplinary action were surprised to receive a Police Wireless Message emanating from Police Headquarters, Calabar forwarding a list of those purportedly retired from the services of the 1st Defendant including the Claimants with immediate effect for being illiterates.
The defendants did not enter any formal appearance, file any defence and did not make any legal representation throughout the hearing of this case in spite of been put on notice at every turn.
The officers contended that they were not illiterates because they can read and write without difficulty and were found qualified during the recruitment exercise, maintained that they were not afforded any opportunity whatsoever to be heard and the evidence submitted needed no further proof urged the court to grant their reliefs in the interest of Justice.
Delivering judgment, the trial Judge, Justice Namtari held that Lack of evidence or defence per se does not guarantee automatic victory to the claimant since evidence does not become credible merely because it is unchallenged.
“The Defendants having tersely stated in the wireless message that the Claimants are illiterates, they are bound to establish their illiteracy to justify the dismissal of the Claimants in that regard. Since the Defendants are not here to perform this task, it behoves the Claimant to disprove the assertion that they are illiterates, on the minimum standard.
“I must say they have done just that. Not only are the Claimants able to place before the court the documentary evidence of First School Leaving Certificates and Trade Test Certificates, I am convinced that having been tested and found them fit and worthy of employment, it is unbelievable that the Defendants can now dub them illiterates.
“Since the Claimants have not been afforded a hearing before the decision to dismiss/retire them from the Nigeria Police Force, I have no difficulty in finding and holding the decision to dismiss them is a nullity and must be set aside.” Justice Namtari ruled