His Lordship, Hon. Justice Oyebiola Oyewumi of the Abuja Judicial division of the National Industrial Court has nullified the fact-finding committee report of the National Universities Commission and letter of interdiction issued to Mr. Victor Uyo dated 30th August 2007 for breach of the Cooperative Society Act, lack of fair-hearing and the contract of employment.
The Court ordered NUC to pay Victor Uyo the sum of N12,478,612.89 being 50% salary for the period of his unlawful interdiction from 6th November 2006 to 31st December 2018 as general damages and N200,000 cost of action within 30 days.
From fact, the claimant’s- Victor Uyo had submitted that he was alleged of the misappropriation of the Co-operative fund that a panel and fact-finding committee was set up to look into the allegation and without giving him a fair hearing found him guilty and consequently placed on interdiction.
He pleaded that his interdiction was for twelve years rather than 3 months as per the Guidelines for appointment, promotion and discipline and as result, he lost promotions and annual increment.
He averred that the Registrar of Co-operative society constituted a panel and exonerated him of all allegations levelled against him but, the defendant failed to accede to the report, filed an application at the Federal High Court and the matter was transferred to the Industrial Court.
He stated that the Industrial Court declared the interdiction as unlawful and he resumed on the 24th of December, 2018. He stated that after his interdiction he was forcefully moved out of the defendant’s premises and his, training manuals and his procurement specialist practice manual were all thrown out of his office and destroyed on the order of the defendant, sought amongst other for an order for the payment of the sum of (Naira equivalent) US$ 30,000,00, US $ 10,668.00 and E 800.00 being fees for tuition/ practice manual cost, 4 weeks 28 days Estacode and return ticket for the repeat training and certification he did at the ILO International Training Centre, in Turin Italy.
In defence, the defendant submitted that the Chief Registrar of cooperative societies equally looked into the matter but his findings were rejected by the National Universities Commission Staff Cooperative Society and challenged in Court for the purpose of being quashed. It pleaded that the judgment was on appeal.
The defendant stated that the suit of the claimant is incompetent that the Court lacks jurisdiction to entertain same on the grounds that the Writ of Summons and the statement of facts were not affixed with a legal practitioner’s seal, and the suit is statute-barred by the Public Officers Protection Act, and Limitation Act.
In reply, counsel submitted that the claimant’s case clearly falls within the exception of the Public Officers Protection Act that if the defendant has not destroyed his career for over 13 years and lost about four to five promotion, he should have been at par with his colleagues who are now Deputy Directors and Directors. That based on this, he arrived at the cumulative sum of N21,129.839.00 for the entire period covered and urged the Court to so hold.
Delivering judgment, the presiding Judge, Justice Oyewumi held that no Court should rely on technicalities to shut out a party before it, that the claimants’ case is neither barred by the limitation Act or the Public Officers Protection Act, dismissed the objection for lacking merit.
“However from the document before the Court, the Appeal has not been entered as there is nothing to show that the Registrar of the Court from which the appeal emanates has forwarded to the Registrar of the appellate Court a compiled Record of this Court and there is no suit Number yet. The import of this is that there is as yet no competent appeal against the decision of Hon. Justice Agbakoba. Therefore, this Court can decide on this claim and will not tread on the jurisdiction of the Court of Appeal to adjudicate on that suit.
“One would have expected that the defendant if so interested in the Cooperative issue, to refer the matter to the Chief Registrar of Cooperative, the body responsible by law to investigate and if the claimant was reported to the management of the defendant by the Chief Registrar of Cooperative to have misappropriated its funds, that is when the defendant would have intervened by setting up an investigatory inquiry. Rather, the defendant acted ultra vires of its powers by taking over the powers/usurping the duties of the Registrar of Cooperative.
“From the circumstances of this suit, it is clear that the claimant’s right to fair hearing was utterly breached by the defendant vide all the reasons stated supra.
“I, however, find no evidence on record to substantiate the claimant’s claim for special damages of N21,129,839. There is dearth of evidence on record on the part of the claimant to substantiate his claim for the above sum.”