The Hon. President, National Industrial Court, His Lordship, Hon. Justice Benedict Kanyip, PhD has quashed the purported dismissal of Mr Mukasa Onoja from the service of Corporate Affairs Commission, ordered immediate reinstatement with payment of all outstanding salaries and arrears, and the sum of Five Hundred Thousand Naira cost of action within 30 days.
The Court held that the commission cannot query and try Onoja for unethical practice and touting, but find him guilty of falsification of records that this offends all the tenets of fair hearing.
From facts, the claimant- Mukasa Onoja had submitted that he was given a query for alleged Unethical Practice and Premeditated Touting, which he replied and was thereafter invited to appear before the Central Disciplinary Committee (CDC) to answer questions on his answers to the query.
That after his appearance, the agency issued him a letter of dismissal dated 9th April 2018 on the grounds of touting, unethical practice and falsification of records, that the letter he wrote to the Board Chairman to revisits his case and the decision taken was completely ignored that no scintilla of evidence showing that the alleged allegations have been proved against him to warrant dismissal and further that all the testimonies of the witnesses who testified against him were given behind his back.
The defendant-CAC submitted that the claimant has grossly misconducted himself and deserves to be dismissed that the agency conditions of service allow dismissal of any of its staff who falsifies a record of the commission that dismissal of the claimant is proper that there is nothing nor any evidence before the Court to show that the trial of the claimant was not conducted in accordance with his conditions of service.
Learned Counsel to the commission, Tolu Babaleye and Mrs Oby Alex-Ukwueze, with Sunday William Oluwole, averred that the claimant who is alleging that he was not given a fair hearing before his dismissal from the Commission, admitted to the alleged offence in his answer to the query, went ahead to apologize to the commission that an admitted fact needs no further proof urged the Court to dismiss the case for lacking merit.
In reply, claimant counsel U. O. Onoja, with Osmond Eleojo and C. P. Ocheja submitted that from the finding of the Committee, the claimant was only found guilty of carelessness which does not attract a penalty of dismissal and was never charged or confronted with the allegation of falsification of records, yet, he was dismissed on the sole ground of Falsification of Records that he (Onoja) regrets his action does not amount to an admission of any wrongdoing.
After careful consideration of the submissions of both counsel, delivering Judgment via virtual sitting, the presiding Judge, Justice Benedict Kanyip held that fair hearing is about opportunity, once the opportunity is not given, there can be no fair hearing.
“Was the claimant queried and tried for falsification of records? The answer is a categorical NO. The claimant was queried and so should have been tried for unethical practice and touting. So when the claimant was dismissed “on grounds of Touting, Unethical Practice & Falsification of Records”, the defendant went overboard and acted outside the dictates of fair hearing.
“The CDC did not find the claimant guilty of unethical practice and touting; instead it found him guilty of falsification of records, something that the claimant was never queried for.
“It cannot be said that opportunity was given where the content of what the employee is to answer is not disclosed to him/her. In querying the claimant for unethical practice and touting, but finding him guilty of falsification of records, it cannot be said that the defendant gave the claimant the fair hearing opportunity needed to defend himself in terms of falsification of records. I so find.
“On the whole, I am satisfied that the claimant proved his case that he was not given a fair hearing by the defendant. This means that finding the claimant guilty as it did and thereby dismissing him, the defendant acted against the tenets of fair hearing. The dismissal of the claimant is accordingly a nullity in the eyes of the law. I so hold.”