His Lordship, Hon. Justice Isaac Essien of the Lagos Judicial Division of the National Industrial Court has set aside and nullified the dismissal of Ashogbon Oluwole Nelson from Yaba College Of Technology predicated on the purported reports of the Senior Staff Investigation Committee and the Governing Council Ad-hoc Committee; ordered his reinstatement without any prejudicial treatment, with payment of arrears of salaries and all benefits from July 2018 till date within 30 days.
The Court held that the proceeding of the Institution Governing Council Ad-hoc Committee was devoid of fair hearing, basic tenets of natural justice, unjustified and unlawful.
From facts, the claimant-Ashogbon Nelson had submitted that his HOD gave him the permission to procure an official number plate, and Before he started using the number the HOD directed him to see the transport officer who expressed displeasure over the procurement, that on the 19/1/2018, he received a query on alleged forgery and impersonation in the procurement of the official plate number which has since been returned to the institution.
That he was invited to appear before the Senior Staff Investigation Committee which admonished him, that apart from the oral permission he ought to have obtained written approval before procuring the plate number.
Furthermore, On the 31/7/2018 he was suspended from duty. In August, he appeared before the Governing Council Adhoc Committee and complained that the proceedings were conducted with intimidation that witnesses were interviewed in his absence with no opportunity to hear and interview the witnesses.
In defence, the defendants- Yaba College Of Technology, its Governing Council alleged that the HOD gave no approval for the claimant to procure the official number plate that the dismissal of the claimant was for serious misconduct in line with the extant public service rule that the claimant admitted the allegation thus resulting in the governing council setting up a committee.
The defendants counsel I. A. Kokumo Esq raised a preliminary point contended that statement of facts signed were not affixed with the seal/stamp or receipt of payment for a practicing seal argued that the process is incurably bad and incompetent.
In response, the claimant counsel A. O. kolawaole Esq argued that mere failure to affix the seal does not render the process void urged the court to dismiss the objection.
Delivering judgment, the presiding Judge, Justice Essien held that It is an equitable practice as recognised in the procedural practice not to visit the sins of counsel on the litigant, adjudged that the subsequent seal of the claimant counsel affixed to the other processed filed before the court has cured whatever defect that there might have been on the complaint, dismissed the objection for lacking merit.
This negative assertion made by the claimant above that he was denied the right to hear those witnesses testimonies first-hand and to cross-examine them were never traversed by the defendants in their statement of defence filed on the 11/3/2019.
It is a cardinal principle of fair hearing that an administrative proceeding must comply with the principles of a fair hearing in order for the proceedings to pass the requisite test of adherence to the established principle of fair hearing.
The defendant failed to produce the report which would have satisfied the court that the proceedings complied with the rules of fair hearing and thereby debunk the infringement complained of by the claimant. The onus placed on the defendants was therefore not discharged. This court is compelled to raise the presumption that if the document was produced it would have been against the defendant in this action.
In all, the Court held that the dismissal of the claimant cannot stand, ordered defendants to pay the claimant the sum of N500,000 as general damages for the unlawful termination of his appointment and the sum of 100,000 naira cost of action.