The National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) in Ibadan, Oyo State, has ordered the state government’s Board of Internal Revenue, to “immediately” reinstate Adetoro Olayinka, and pay him his salary backlog since 2015 when he was said to have been illegally sacked.
Mr Olayinka was dismissed, through a letter dated November 16, 2015 over allegations of embezzlement of revenue proceeds.
In his suit filed February 15, 2016, Mr Olayinka through his lawyer, Femi Aborisade, sought a declaration that his dismissal by the Board of Internal Revenue, Oyo State, was “illegal, unlawful, null, void and of no effect, being contrary to the Civil Service Commission Regulations, Laws of Oyo State of Nigeria, 2000.”
He claimed his dismissal was based on “unproven allegation of embezzlement of public funds” and without affording him any opportunity of fair hearing.
He said the defendants – the state’s Board of Internal Revenue, Civil Service Commission of Oyo State and the Attorney-General (the first to the third defendants) – did not give him the opportunity to attend any inquiry, investigation panel or disciplinary panel after a query dated September 17, 2015.
The claimant sought an order setting aside the Board of Internal Revenue’s letter with reference number BIR/Vol.621/36 dated 16/11/2015, through when the claimant (Mr Olayinka) was dismissed as Clerical Officer GL. 04.
He also sought an order reinstating him as Clerical Officer GL.04 to the pensionable establishment of the Board of Internal Revenue, without any loss of employment rights, including the right to promotion.
Similarly, he prayed for an order compelling the defendants to pay his full salaries, allowances, fringe benefits and all other outstanding entitlement accruable to him from the month of February 2016 (when the suit was instituted) till the determination of the suit as if he was never dismissed.
He calculated the backlog of his salary from September 2015 till January 2016, the month preceding February 2016 when he filed the suit, to be N234,144.
He also sought in the suit an order awarding N1million to him as general damages against the defendant for his wrongful and unlawful dismissal.
In their defence, defendants’ lawyer, Adeola Ige-Adeleke, urged the court to hold that the Mr Olayinka’s dismissal was “valid and lawful.”
They insisted the claimant’s dismissal was legal as “clear and justifiable reasons” were given for it, adding that he was given ample opportunity to defend herself and that her dismissal was consistent with the terms of her employment and the law of master-servant.
They also filed a counter-suit in which they sought an “order for the payment of the sum of N122, 853.33″ by the claimant as indebtedness”.
They also prayed for an order for the payment of “10 per cent interest of the said indebtedness pending the determination of this suit.”
They also prayed the court to award “general damages against the claimant for gross misconduct and failure to remit outstanding indebtedness within the stipulated 3 months.”
Delivering judgement in the suit on November 24, 2021, the judge, John Peters, held that the state Board of Internal Revenue did not comply with the procedure enshrined in the Public Service Rules of January 2013 in dismissing Mr Olayinka from its employment.
The judge said under the Public Service Rules of Oyo State, the dismissal procedure required two steps.
He said Rule 030302 required the superior officer to issue a query to the affected officer for a written representation on why a disciplinary action should not be taken against the officer.
The second step, according to the judge, requires that immediately after a tribunal of inquiry makes recommendation of a disciplinary nature on an officer, the Civil Service Commission shall not act on the recommendations until the affected officer is afforded an opportunity to reply to the allegations made against him as provided for under Rule 030303.
Faulting the dismissal procedure adopted by the defendants, the judge said there was no evidence of any tribunal of inquiry as required by the Rules.
He said there was similarly no evidence of a report made by claimant’s superior officer to the Permanent Secretary/Head of Extra-Ministerial Department.
“These are just some of the important links that are missing in the case of the defendants. The dismissal of the claimant is contrary to the rules and procedure as laid down by the defendants,” the judge said.
He said the procedure adopted by them in dismissing the claimant “fell short of expectation within the meaning of the Public Service Rules relied on by the defendants.”
“It is most unfortunate, I will say, that the defendants found it difficult to follow a rather simple disciplinary procedure they put in place for their employees.
“An employer as in the instant case has no choice than to follow in-to-to its established disciplinary procedure.
“It is mandatory for it to do so. It is compulsory. The disciplinary procedure must be followed step by step and to the letter. It is either the disciplinary procedure is complied with or not. There is no room for partial compliance.”
After setting aside the dismissal letter, the judge held: “I reinstate and order the immediate reinstatement of the claimant as Clerical Officer GL. 04 to the pensionable establishment of the Board of Internal Revenue, without any loss of employment rights, including the right to promotion.”
“I order and direct the 1st defendant to pay to the claimant all his arrears of salaries plus allowances from 1st September 2015 till the date of this judgement,” the court declared.
Mr Peters further ordered the 1st defendant pay the sum of N200, 000 as cost of the proceedings to Mr Olayinka.
“All the heads of counterclaims sought are refused and dismissed for lack of proof by credible evidence,” the judge held.
“All the terms of this judgement are to be complied with immediately,” the court said.
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