Owerri – The Presiding Judge of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria, Owerri Judicial division, His Lordship, Hon. Justice Ibrahim Galadima ordered Isiala Mbano Local Government to pay four former councilors the collective sum of N14,821,482.00 salaries, N9,120,912.00 furniture allowances and N608,060.80 leave allowances for May 2011 to July 2012 within 60 days.
The court held that it was unquestionable that the dissolution of legislative councils by the Governor unlawfully abridged the tenures of the Claimants.
This suit was commenced by way of Complaint duly accompanied by other originating processes filed the 1st day of July 2016 wherein the Claimants claimed against the Defendant among other for the sum of N15,39,539.6 being unpaid salaries for the months of May 2011 to July 2012, the sum of N18,850,364.8 being unpaid furniture, severance, and other allowances and entitlements due and payable to the Claimants as Members respectively of the Legislative Council of the Defendant.
From the statement of facts, the Claimants were elected as councilors in the legislative council of the defendant local government on 7/8/2010 for a fixed tenure of 2 years, from 2010 to 2012. They were issued with Certificates of return by the Imo state Independent Electoral Commission (ISIEC). The claimants’ case is that they were only paid salaries for the months of August 2010 to April 2011, while their salaries for the period of May 2011 to July 2012 remain unpaid, after the Governor of Imo State dissolved all the elected local Government Councils in the State upon assuming office on 29/5/2011.
The Defendant’s Counsel argued that the claimants who admitted that they did not challenge the dissolution of their legislative council cannot rely on Court of Appeal’s judgment, as they were not parties to the suit, and in the event that they are entitled to rely on it, this extant suit ought to be dismissed for being an abuse of court process.
Also, counsel contended that the pleadings of the claimants that it was the Governor that dissolved the legislative council, the said governor not being a party to this suit, the defendant cannot be liable for his acts.
The claimants’ counsel argued that the claimants are entitled to their claims because the Governor has no power to dissolve Local Government Councils.
In the same vein, counsel submitted that the claimants despite being prevented by the defendant, continued in their official and political duties till the end of their tenure, and that the assumption that the claimants did not serve out their tenure, was owing to the illegal act of the Governor in truncating their tenures as politically elected councilors, and the claimants whose rights have been infringed upon are thus entitled to remedy.
Furthermore, Counsel submitted that by virtue of order 14(1)&(3) of the NICN Rules the issue of non-joinder of the Governor of Imo state does not defeat this suit.
After careful evaluation of all the processes filed, and the submissions of the learned Counsel from both sides, the Court presided by Hon. Justice Ibrahim Galadima expressed thus;
“From all the evidence before me, it is crystal that the Claimants were elected as councilors for a two-year tenure and returned by the Imo State Independent Electoral Commission (ISIEC).
“It is unquestionable that the dissolution of legislative councils by the Governor unlawfully abridged the tenures of the Claimants. The law is quite settled in this regard – where a contract of service is for a fixed term or tenure, the employee cannot be removed save for misconduct; frustration of the contract of service; or where the employer dies; and or when the contract of such employee is determined before the effluxion of the term agreed, the employer shall be made to pay the employee the full salary and allowances he/she would have earned for the period of his/her fixed tenure.
“It is ultimately my finding, therefore, that the Claimants have made out a case for the payment of the remainder of their salaries and allowances considering the provisions of RMAFC Remuneration Package for Political Public and Judicial Office Holders applicable from February 2007 to date.
The court ordered the defendant to pay the 1st to 4th Claimants, the collective sum of N14,821,482.00 being their May 2011 to July 2012 salaries and regular allowances at N247,024.70 per month per counselor. And also payment of N9,120,912.00 being their furniture allowances at N2,280,228 per person and N608,060.80 collectively at N152,015.20 per person, being their leave allowances within 60 days.
His Lordship also commended all counsel involved in the cause particularly the gentlemen and public defenders from the Ministry of Justice for their respective roles in the prosecution of this matter timorously.