Lagos---His Lordship, Hon. Justice Isaac Essien of the National Industrial Court, Lagos Judicial Division has ordered National Universities Commission to re-instate Mr. Kunle Rotimi back to his employment with payment of all salaries, allowances and bonuses accruable to him from the 1st of March, 1996 till date, and the sum of N1,000,000 as general damages for the unlawful employment termination within 30 days.
The Court held that by virtue of the total disregard for due process, all the decisions taken by the NUC against the Rotimi leading to his dismissal from service are arbitrary, unlawful and contrary to the relevant provisions of the Public Service Rules and the NUC conditions of service.
From facts, the claimant- had submitted that out of frustration from office over study leave, he resigned his employment on the 7/5/96 and gave 30 days notice which the defendant refused to accept. That the first panel set up was between 10/4/2002 after he has been arbitrarily dismissed and his earlier resignation was rejected contented that the panel report which the defendant failed to produce admitted that the defendant was in error for failing to set up a panel on the matter since 1996.
The claimant stated that he withdrew all the petitions as directed by the Peace Panel for an amicable resolution that Instead of the defendant resolving the problem, the defendant wrote a letter dated 15/6/2001 titled ‘Letter of Acceptance of Resignation’ wherein it purported to accept his resignation dated 7/5/96, it had earlier rejected 5years ago, as a way to rescind the dismissal.
The defendant posited also that claimant abandoned his duty post between February and May 1996, and overstayed his annual leave and refused to resume duty until 27/2/96 when he was ordered to do so, denied approval to proceed on the study, that while the claimant reply to the query was under consideration the claimant tendered his voluntary resignation on the 7/5/1996 which was rejected.
That after due consideration, the committee rescinded the dismissal of the claimant and accepted his voluntary resignation with effect from 7/5/1996 based on clemency and without any financial obligation on their part.
Furthermore, the learned counsel to the commission T. A. B. Oladipo Esq contended that the case is statute-barred by the Public Officers Protection Act and the limitation law urged the court to dismiss the claimant reliefs.
The claimant counsel Ojegbede Esq. with E. Austine Esq and E. J. NwokwuEsq in their final written address asked for determination among others whether the claimant’s voluntary resignation of 07/05/96 rejected by the defendant as ‘purported resignation’ could thereafter be accepted five years after on 15/06/200l in lieu of the rescission of a dismissal that was unlawfully effected ab –initio.
After careful perusal of the submissions of both counsel, the presiding Judge, Justice Essien held that Public Officers Protection Act does not apply to the contract of service between the parties, dismissed the objection.
“The defendant failed to inform the claimant of the outcome of the answer to the query which would have enabled the claimant to know if any further disciplinary action was pending against him before he resigned his appointment. This court has no difficulty in concluding that there was no disciplinary proceeding pending when the claimant tendered his voluntary resignation on the 7/5/1996.
"In this case, we are faced with a situation where the claimant who was entitled to fair hearing was not even afforded the opportunity to defend himself of the allegation of gross misconduct levied against him in compliance with staff information hand-book. The reason given in the letter of dismissal has not been justified to the satisfaction of this court. The decision to dismiss the claimant being unlawful and in violation of the laid down procedure for imposition of the disciplinary punishment of dismissal cannot stand. The letter of dismissal dated 11/7/1996 is hereby set aside.
“When the defendant refused to accept the voluntary resignation and proceeded to dismiss the claimant, the voluntary resignation was rendered in-effective, it was spent and cannot in any circumstances be relied upon by the defendant having taken further disciplinary steps albeit wrongfully against the claimant in this action.