The Presiding Judge, Makurdi Judicial Division of the National Industrial Court, His Lordship, Hon. Justice Salisu Danjidda has nullified the suspension and compulsory retirement of Director Administration & Finance, Benue State Scholarship Board, Mr. Solomon Tor Gba from the State Civil Service, ordered reinstatement to his position, rank with payment of all outstanding salaries and allowances from 21st March 2016 till date.
The Court held that the procedures prescribed under State Civil Service Rules have not been strictly complied with by the defendants before issuing Government White Paper and where the procedure in question is materially contravened, and any decision taken affecting the right, reputation or tenure of office of the employee may be declared null and void.
From facts, the claimant- Solomon Tor Gba had submitted that the Government of Benue state set up a Judicial Commission of Enquiry, invited as a witness, and testified for the commission, that after the assignment, the commission recommended that he should make a refund to the Government.
The claimant expressed that the right procedure was not followed, leading to his dismissal, complained that though he was queried, the said query made no specific allegations of misconduct against him and was not confronted with any allegation nor allowed to be heard on same before he was dismissed and that he was put on suspension without pay before the dismissal that his dismissal from service based on the report and recommendation of the Commission of Enquiry is wrong and therefore seeks redress.
In defence, the Defendants- State Civil Service Commission, Benue State Gov and its Attorney argued that the claimant’s action was filed outside of the time limit prescribed in the statute of the Public Officers Protection Revised Laws of Benue State hence, depriving the court of jurisdiction to entertain the matter, and further that the suit is not one that the court is vested with requisite jurisdiction to determine because the suit is interwoven with the recommendations of the commission of enquiry.
The defendants Counsel V.T. Amele Esq submitted on the issue of the outstanding salaries claimed by the claimant that based on the pleadings, the claim was purely imaginary and urged the court to discountenance same.
In opposition, Claimant Counsel Ocha P. Ulegede with P.O. Onah with Mamfat contended that the claim of the claimant being one of wrongful retirement from service is not statute-barred and is within the purview of the matters that this court can competently exercise jurisdiction over, urged the court to grant the reliefs sought.
Delivering Judgment, the presiding Judge, Justice Danjidda affirmed jurisdiction and held inter alia that the provision of Section 2 (a) of Public Officers Protection Law of Benue State is in pari material with the provisions of the Public Officers Protection Act.
“I am unable to agree with the Defendants' counsel that this court does not have jurisdiction to entertain this suit because the suit is interwoven with the recommendations of the commission of enquiry. I hold the view that in as long as the issue of employment of the claimant is affected, then, this Court has jurisdiction to look into any recommendation that will affect the right of an employee.
“It is trite that in employment with statutory flavor, the procedure duly laid down in the applicable law must strictly be complied with in matters of discipline of such an employee.”
“There is no evidence that the Claimant was called upon to interface with the defendants to react to the indictment made against him by the Commission of Inquiry. I also find that the Claimant never had any interaction with the Civil Service Commission at any time concerning the alleged fraud.
Lastly, the Court refused the claim for the nullification of the recommendations of the Commission of enquiry and held that since the claimant did not join the chairman and members of the said commission of inquiry as parties in the suit that it would be against the principle of fair hearing for the Court to declare any of their action as wrongful or otherwise as it affects the claimant's employment.