[Judgment] Court Sets Aside Dismissal of Anthony Izevbekhai by Edo State Govt
Akure-–The presiding Judge of the National Industrial Court, Akure division, His Lordship,Hon. Justice O. O. Oyewumi has set aside the dismissal of Mr. Anthony Izevbekhai by the Edo State Government, ordered that claimant be reinstated to the position of Assistant Director, GL 15 and payment of salaries and entitlement from the period of November, 2015 till the date within 30 days
The court held that the panel constituted by the Commissioner For Justice And Attorney-General Of Edo State rather thanEdo State Civil Service Commission is against the plain provision of the Civil Service Rules.
By a General Form of Complaint, the claimant sought against the defendants for A Declaration that the dismissal of the Claimant from Edo State Civil Service is unlawful, illegal, null and void as the procedure that led to claimant’s dismissal is flawed, tainted with malice and inconsistent with Civil Service Rules and Regulations of Edo State, furthermore it offends the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as claimant was not given fair hearing.
By sworn deposition, the claimant was employed as Legal Officer in the 1st defendant in 1998 and he rose through the ranks and became an Assistant Director in 16th August 2014. That sometimes in May 2014, he was issued with a hearing notice to appear and defend Edo State Govt. in the State High Court, that he appeared in the matter on the 15th of May, 2014 and requested for an adjournment and it was adjourned to the 26th June 2014.
That on the 25th of June, 2014 he booked a vehicle at the Pool but none was made available to him and he had difficulty making alternative arrangements hence he could not attend Court. He further testified that when Judgment was delivered, it was not in favour of the State Govt.
Following these events, he was issued a query sometimes in May 2015 and he responded to same, he was also issued a letter of Suspension from Service without Payment dated 3rd of June, 2015 and later a Letter of Invitation to appear before the panel dated 12th June 2015 that after honouring the invitation, he was downgraded from Salary Grade Level 15 to Salary Grade Level 14.
Further that he received another letter dated 16th November, 2015 signed by the Permanent Secretary to COMMISSIONER FOR JUSTICE AND ATTORNEY-GENERAL OF EDO STATE – 2nd Defendant dismissing him from Service, hence contented that under the Civil Service Rules, that EDO STATE GOVERNMENT -1stdefendant does not have the statutory authority to dismiss him as only the CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION, EDO STATE -3rddefendant is entrusted with such power.
The defendants maintained that there was no time the 2nd defendant’s office lacked official vehicles, that the claimant failed to follow up the case assigned to him, that he was negligent and in dereliction of his duty, hence the case formed the object of the 3rddefendant’s panel and the claimant was unable to exculpate himself of the allegation of duty dereliction against him with which he was found culpable.
The defendant stated that they followed due governmental process, same supported by the Edo State Laws and statutes and that they are not liable to any of the claimant’s claim, that his suit is frivolous, fraught with inadequate knowledge of Civil Service Rules and same should be dismissed with substantial cost.
In his final written address, Counsel to the claimant J.O. Odion Esq. submitted that the claimant having served the punishment of demotion, the subsequent punishment of dismissal amounts to a double punishment which is contrary to Section 36(9) of the 1999 Constitution as amended urged the Court to so hold.
Delivering the Judgment, Justice Oyewumi held that claimant’s suspension was not unlawful in line with the Edo State Civil Service Rules and not entitled to the claim of salaries and entitlements for the months of June and July, 2015.
“It is well settled that if any disciplinary action is to be taken pursuant to any statute, law or rule, there must be full compliance with them or any of them as required before such disciplinary action can be properly based or justified.
“It is in this light that I find that the panel constituted by the 2nd defendant rather than the 3rd defendant is against the plain provision of the CSR, it is thus unlawful and in consequent the demotion of the claimant by the panel report constituted by the 2nddefendant is null and void.
“…evidence before the Court points to the fact that the 3rd defendant relying on the recommendation of the 2nd defendant’s panel report dismissed the claimant in breach of his Constitutional right to fair hearing. It is based on the foregoing that I find that the dismissal of the claimant on the 16th of November, 2015 without compliance with the Edo State CSR is unlawful.I so find and hold.” Justice Oyewule ruled.
In all, the court declared that the demotion of the claimant from the position of an Assistant Director, Salary Grade 15 to the position of a Chief State Counsel Salary Grade Level 14 is unlawful, set aside the demotion, ordered reinstatement to the position of Assistant Director, GL 15 and payment of salaries and entitlement from the period of November, 2015 till the within 30 days.
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