Employment Termination: Court Voids Directive of Imo State Gov, Orders Re-Instatement of Gloria Egwuagu As Deputy Director, Imo State Civil Service Within 30 Days

Owerri – His Lordship, Hon. Justice Olukayode Arowosegbe of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria, sitting in Owerri, Imo State, on Friday 22nd in a judgment declared the directive of the Governor of Imo State to the Imo State Civil Service Commission on the purported suspension of Mrs. Gloria Egwuagu as unconstitutional, null and void, and of no effect.

The court ordered that Claimant be reinstated to her position as Deputy Director in the Imo State Civil Service and payment of salaries, emoluments and allowances from November 2016 till date and sum of N300,000.00 cost of action within 30 days.

The claimant Mrs. Gloria Egwuagu sought against defendants among others; DECLARATION that the claimant is still in the service of Imo State Government and is entitled to her salaries, emoluments, benefits, and privileges. DECLARATION that the directive or instruction from the 1st Defendant to the 3rd Defendant on the purported suspension of the claimant is unconstitutional, null and void, and of no effect.

Likewise, AN ORDER restoring the Claimant to her position as Deputy Director in the Imo State Civil Service.

From the statement of fact, the claimant employment by the 3rd defendant was confirmed on 28th May 1999 and equally earned promotions up to the rank of Deputy Director on 24th January 2014. The claimant also pleaded that in the month of November 2016 the 1st defendant i.e Governor of Imo State directed the Attorney-General Of Imo State i.e 2nd defendant to suspend her indefinitely without pay, and followed by a query dated 28th September 2016, which she replied on 6th October 2016.

The claimant pleaded that the defendants did not follow the laid down procedures of the Imo State Public Service Rules in the disciplinary measures taken against her.

On the other hand, the defendants pleaded that the claimant stopped discharging her duties in November 2016 and was queried, suspended and thereafter retired on 27th March 2017.

The defendants pleaded that all laid down procedures in the Civil Service Rules of Imo State were obeyed; and that the claimant was heard before the suspension that the claimant is not entitled to the reliefs claimed.

In reaction, the claimant denied that she was retired on 27th March 2017 and said up till date, she has not received any notice of the purported retirement. that, the purported retirement was carried out during the pendency of this suit while the claimant had not stopped discharging her duties.

The learned counsel formulated for the determination whether the 1st Defendant has the statutory power to direct the 3rd Defendant to suspend the Claimant indefinitely without salaries?

The learned counsel submitted that the approval of the 3rd defendant on which letter of suspension was issued by the 2nd defendant, not having been tendered, means no such approval exits, and if it exits, then, it was deliberately withheld and thus, raised the legal presumption in.

The defendants opined that in the absence of response within the 48 hours stipulated, the 3rd defendant was right to issue the claimant with the suspension letter on 16th November 2016 and also the other disciplinary measures taken subsequently.

After careful evaluation of all the processes filed, and the submissions of the learned Counsel from both sides. The Court presided by Hon. Justice Olukayode Arowosegbe held that there is no proof that the claimant was ever retired from the service Imo State, the defendants had not led any evidence as to the existence of any letter of retirement not to talk of its being served on the claimant in the instant case.

“So, even if any letter of retirement had been issued, it has not been served on the claimant, and not having been served on the claimant, the claimant remained in service and has not been retired

“I cannot also find the basis for the submissions of the counsel to the defendants that the suspension meted out on the claimant was due to the claimant’s failure to reply the query issued her within 48 hrs. More so, I have checked the letter of suspension and cannot find that the claimant was suspended for replying the query late.

“I, therefore, hold that the touted exercise of the power to suspend the claimant by the Attorney-General of Imo State is without vires, is usurpation of the powers of the Civil Service Commission of Imo state, and thus, null and void and of no effect ab initio.”

In all, the court set aside the purported suspension of the Claimant from Imo State Civil Service, and ordered that Claimant be restored to her position as Deputy Director in the Imo State Civil Service and payment of salaries, emoluments and allowances from November 2016 till date and sum of N300,000.00 cost of action within 30 days.

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