The National Industrial Court in Akure has ordered the Ekiti State University (EKSU), Ado Ekiti, Ekiti State, to reinstate 85 non-teaching staff members sacked by the institution in December 2019.
The judge, Kiyersohot Damulak, also gave the university a 30-day ultimatum to pay the reinstated workers their salaries, emoluments, and allowances from the date of their unlawful disengagement till date.
In the judgement delivered on January 28, a copy of which was seen by PREMIUM TIMES on Wednesday, the court also directed the university to pay the workers the three months salary they were being owed before they unlawfully disengaged.
Mr Damulak also ordered the university to pay each of the sacked workers N50,000 as the cost of prosecuting the case.
The award totaled N4,250,000 for the 85 workers who had sued the university for wrongful and illegal termination of their employment.
Mr Damulak, in quashing their sacking, held that the university’s governing council failed to comply with the provisions of the institution’s employment regulations in disengaging them.
The claimants, Mary Fajembola and 84 others, had through their lawyer, O. O Ayenakin, filed their suit with the university, its Vice-Chancellor and the Governing Council, joined as the defendants.
The plaintiffs, who claimed to be non-teaching staff members of the institution, alleged in their suit that their appointments were terminated on December 5, 2019, without any offence.
They claimed in the suit filed on February 27, 2020 that they were neither queried nor made to face any disciplinary panel prior to their disengagement.
They added that the procedure adopted in disengaging them from service was unknown to their conditions of service.
In their defence through their lawyer, Oluwatosin Olanipekun, the defendants claimed they sacked the claimants because the university could no longer cope with staff’s “humongous wage bill.”
They said the responsibilities to ensure the sustainability of the university were becoming overwhelming, hence the need to sack the 85 claimants.
They added that the sacking was in conformity with the governing regulations and the provisions for termination of employment.
But Mr Ayenakin, the claimants’ lawyer, said the condition that either party could terminate the appointment by notice was applicable to the category of staff of his clients.
He insisted that the disengagement ran foul of the law and urged the court to grant his clients’ prayers.
Delivering judgment, Mr Damulak held that the disengagement violated the regulations governing the service of the senior/junior staff of the university.
“The implication of all these is that since the claimants’ employment enjoys statutory flavour, the claimants are entitled to an order of reinstatement and any amount owed them before their disengagement and thereafter till retirement and I so order,” the judge ruled.
Summarising his findings in the judgment, Mr Damulak, said among others, “The employment of the claimants with the defendants is regulated by the defendants’ statute, Regulations and the claimants’ letters of employment.
“ The claimants’ employments with statutory flavour cannot be terminated for services not required.
“ Disengagement of the claimants by notice or salary in lieu of notice for services not required is incompatible with their status of statutory employment.
“ The provision of paragraph 2.46(ii) of the Regulations is incompatible with the provision of paragraph 2.19 of the Regulations, same is hereby struck out.
“The defendants did not comply with the provisions of the Regulations in disengaging the claimants.”
The judge reiterated that “the disengagement of the claimants in the manner it was done was unlawful, null and void,” adding, “ the claimants are hereby reinstated to their erstwhile positions.”
The court ordered the university to pay “the claimants their three months salaries owed them before their unlawful disengagement.”
It also ordered the institution to “pay the claimants their salaries, emoluments and allowance from the date of their unlawful termination till reinstatement today January 28, 2021 and subsequently till retirement.”
He ruled that the claimants were not entitled to general damages, but ordered the defendants are “to pay to each claimant cost of N50, 000.”
“The salaries and cost are to be paid within 30 days of this judgment or the amounts will attract 10 per cent interest per annum,” the judge ordered.
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