The National Industrial Court of Nigeria in Abuja has dismissed an application by the British High Commission seeking to stay the execution of a judgment directing it to compensate two former Nigerian employees who were wrongly sacked by the office.
The two former staff members of the British High Commission in Nigeria – Ayo Oyarero and Thomas Anakhuekha – sued the commission over their illegal dismissal in 2015.
The judge, Edith Agbakoba, in a June 2021 judgement, nullified the termination of Messrs Oyarero’s and Anakhuekha’s employments.
Mrs Agbakoba held that the British High Commission’s “termination of the claimants’ duties without recourse to the Disciplinary procedure as recommended by the locally engaged staff handbook (2011 revised edition), is wrongful.”
In the suit marked: NICN /ABJ/1442017, the British High Commission and two of its officials John Farrand and Gurdeep Purewal – were listed as defendants.
But the British High Commission filed an application for a stay of execution of the judgement.
Ruling on the request for stay of execution of the verdict on Thursday, the judge held that the application and the appeal at the Court of Appeal challenging the judgement were invalid.
Mrs Agbakoba said the British High Commission did not obtain the leave of the court to institute the appeal as provided by the rules of the National Industrial Court.
“Without the application for leave to appeal, I cannot do anything,” the judge said.
In May 2017, the claimants – Messrs Oyarero and Anakhuekha – sued the defendants over the illegal sack.
The claimants who were employed as Transport Coordinator and Automobile Mechanic in 2007 and 2003 respectively, were dismissed after a disciplinary committee set up to investigate allegations of sourcing of vehicle spare parts from unauthorised sources, allegedly introduced extraneous issues into their inquiry.
Subsequently, Messrs Oyarero and Anakhuekha appealed against the findings of the disciplinary committee, but their appeal was ignored by the British High Commission, leading to the duo’s sack in 2015.
The claimants’ lawyer, Mike Ozekhome, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, took up the matter, arguing that the sack without recourse to the disciplinary procedure recommended by the Locally Engaged Staff Handbook (2011 Revised Edition) was “wrongful, illegal, unlawful and malicious.”
Mr Ozekhome had contended that reports of the disciplinary committee of the commission concerning his clients, contained extraneous matters which were never raised during proceedings, while some vital testimonies made during the said proceedings were carefully and deliberately left out.
The British High Commission through its counsel, Patrick Osu, argued that the claimants’ employments were terminated based on their failure to maintain correct and comprehensive records for the storage and use of motor spare parts for the defendants’ fleets.
The defendants said Messrs Oyarero and Anakhuekha bypassed the necessary checks and balances and procedure required to satisfy the principles of the Foreign Commonwealth Office procurement policy on vehicle spare parts procurement.
Mr Osu clarified that the claimants’ letter of termination was amended by the British Deputy High Commission to reflect January 11, 2016, instead of the initial November 11, 2015.
He said the amendment was to accommodate the time frame for the consideration of the claimants’ appeal against their termination.
The defendants contended that the suit was “frivolous and baseless in law”, urging the court to dismiss it with substantial costs in favour of the defendants.
But in her judgment, Mrs Agbakoba voided the termination of the claimants’ employment by the British High Commission.
The judge subsequently ordered the payment of five years’ salary as compensation to the claimants over their unlawful sack.
“By order of this court, the defendants shall pay to the claimants three years’ salary each as compensation for wrongful dismissal/termination of their employment.
“By order of this court, the defendants shall pay to the claimants two years’ salary as compensation for unfair labour practice,” the judge declared.
She added that “all sums payable within 30 days thereafter, 10% interest shall attach,” the cost of the suit was put at N200, 000.
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