The National Industrial Court in Abuja has ordered the reinstatement of a Principal Executive Officer of the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN), Abayomi Ipaye, who was unlawfully sacked in July 2017.
Sanusi Kado, the judge who heard the case brought by Mr Ipaye to challenge the termination of his appointment, also ordered the university authorities to pay him his accrued salaries and other benefits from July 2017, when he was illegally sacked, to date.
The judge, who ruled that the claimant’s disengagement was done in violation of the university’s employment regulations, also awarded the cost of N500,000 against the university.
PREMIUM TIMES, on Thursday obtained a copy of the judgment which Mr Kado delivered on February 17.
Mr Ipaye had, on October 24, 2017, sued NOUN, challenging his sacking.
He recalled that he was employed as an executive officer, grade level 06 of the university, on September 1, 2005, over 15 years ago, and rose to become a principal executive officer II, grade level 09, the position he occupied till the termination of his employment in July 2017.
He claimed that his employment was terminated without being queried or invited to appear before any disciplinary panel in accordance with the university’s employment regulations governing.
In its defence, the university maintained that Mr Ipaye had had cases of acts of misconducts against him with warnings and queries issued against him on different occasions.
It stated that the claimant deliberately refused to answer some of the queries, and insisted that the termination of his employment was in accordance with the rules and regulations governing his employment and the Act establishing the university.
The university urged the court to dismiss the suit.
In a further reply to the university, Mr Ipaye’s legal team insisted that the claimant was never placed on probation to be given salary in lieu of notice nor was aware of any allegation of misconduct brought against him.
The claimant’s team maintained that the institution acted without due course to the provisions of the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) Act, and urged the court to grant his prayers.
‘University weak in enforcing discipline’
Mr Kado acknowledged in his judgment that the university authorities could have been weak in taking right disciplinary action against the claimant at the appropriate time, but ruled that his disengagement in 2017 was done in violation of the law.
He held that the university’s “hues and cry” about querying the claimant eight or nine times, the last of which was in 2016, with the claimant only merely warned at the end of the day “goes to show the weakness of the defendant (NOUN) to take the bull by the horn when it comes to issue of discipline.”
Mr Kado said the university should blame itself “for all the derelictions or negligence in not taking appropriate action at appropriate time when it matters most,” adding that it could not validly sack the claimant without following due process.
‘Disheartening violation of law’
He said due process was not followed and the university’s establishment law was disregarded in disengaging the claimant.
Mr Kado described as “disheartening” that the university authorities “decided to ignore the law and adopted the procedure that denied the claimant of knowing the report against him and giving him opportunity to depend himself before the council.”
He added that “the failure by council to strictly adhere to the provision of section 14 of the Act and regulations exhibit CE1-65 has rendered termination of the claimant’s employment void.”
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In setting aside Mr Ipaye’s sacking, the judge also noted that the university made contradictory claims the reasons for sacking the claimant in 2017.
He stated, “From the content of the DW1T -Request for ratification of the termination and letter of termination, there appears to be confusion and contradiction in that in Exhibit DW1T the case against the claimant was stated to be insubordination and gross misconduct, while in the termination letter, it was stated that the claimant’s service was no longer required.
“Therefore, the action of the Governing Council in ratifying the termination of employment of the claimant was done in flagrant violation of section 14 of the National Open University of Nigeria Act and the right of the claimant to be heard and given the opportunity to defend himself on the allegations of insubordination and gross misconduct.”
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