Yenagoa –His Lordship, Hon. Justice Bashir Alkali of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria, Sitting in Yenagoa on Tuesday 12th March 2019 in a ruling dismissed preliminary objection filed by Government Of Bayelsa State, The Attorney General of Bayelsa State and Bayelsa State Universal Basic Education Board (1ST, 2ND, and 4TH Defendants) for lacking merit, and ordered Mr. Diton Deizigha who is Suing for himself and as representing the other 84 Staff employed by the Bayelsa State Universal Basic Education Board to proceed and open their case.
The court held that the action of the Claimants is not statute barred and as such the court has the jurisdictional competence to preside over the matter.
The Claimants instituted this action vide a Complaint filed on 11th June, 2018. The Claimant’s seeking against the Defendants among others; A DECLARATION that the purported termination of the employment of the Claimants by the 3rd and 4thDefendants is unlawful, null and void. AN ORDER directing the 3rd and 4th Defendants to reinstate the Claimants as Civil Servants. Likewise, AN ORDER directing the 1st, 3rd& 4thDefendants to pay all salaries and allowances accruing to the Claimants from January 2016 to the date Judgment will be issued in this case.
The 1st, 2ndand 4thDefendants filed a Notice of Preliminary Objection pursuant to Section 1 (a) of the Public Officers Protection Law, Cap. P18, Laws of Bayelsa State, praying for AN ORDER dismissing this suit, it having become statute barred on The grounds that The action of the Claimants cannot be maintained three (3) months after the accrual of the right of action, that the Claimant’s suit is incompetent, and this court lacks jurisdiction to hear and determine this suit.
Learned counsel argued that for any proceedings against public officers for any act done in pursuance of their public duties, the law prescribes a specific time frame within which a Claimant is to institute such an action, that the Claimant’s alleged appointment with the Defendants was extinguished sometime in January, 2016. Upon been relieved, the Claimants had the choice to quickly enforce their right by going to court but they choose not to.
In opposition, It is the contention of claimant counsel that the Claimants were not served with a letter of termination of employment, therefore they are still staff of the Bayelsa State Universal Basic Education Board and this suit is not caught up by the Public Officers Protection Law as canvassed by the defendants.
After careful evaluation of all the submissions and processes filed, the presiding Judge, Hon. Justice Bashir Alkali expressed thus;
“It is of legal importance to note that a legal right to enforce an action is not perpetual right, but a right generally limited by statute.
While i am in total support of the submissions made by the learned counsel to the Defendants/Applicants that the cause of action aroused sometime in the month of January, 2016 which is more than the period allowed by the Limitation Law of Bayelsa State to institute an action against a public officer.
In other words, if the damage or injury is in continuance, then a Claimant can institute an action outside the three months provided by the statute. And none payment of salaries or pension which occurs monthly can be termed as a continuous injury.
“In view of the foregoing facts as enumerated ab-initio, its my ardent belief that the action of the Claimants is not statute barred as such this court has the jurisdictional competence to preside over this matter.”
The court resolved the lone issue for determination in favour of the Claimants, dismissed the Preliminary Objection and ordered the Claimants to proceed and open their case.