The National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) in Ibadan has ordered the Oyo State Board of Inland Revenue to reinstate a clerical officer, Adebisi Ogunjinmi, unlawfully dismissed almost six years ago.
The judge, J.D Peters, described her dismissal from service as “ unreasonable, unjustifiable and unfair labour practice.”
Ms Ogunjinmi had sued the Oyo State Board of Inland Revenue, the state’s Civil Service Commission and its Attorney General in her suit marked NICN/1B/19/2016 over her alleged unlawful dismissal in November 2015.
In the suit filed on 16 February, 2016, the claimant said her dismissal through a letter dated 16 November, 2015 was based on an unproven allegation of failing to remit N454,234 revenue to the purse of the government.
She denied the allegation, adding that she was denied a fair hearing.
She alleged that the defendants never gave her the opportunity to attend any enquiry or investigation panel to explain why disciplinary action should not be taken against her following a query that was served on her.
Under cross-examination during the trial, Ms Ogunjinmi had told the court she normally paid whatever money she received into (the Oyo State) government account.
In their defence, the defendants justified Ms Ogunjinmi’s dismissal which they claimed was based on a case of gross misconduct against her.
They said her appointment took effect from 2 October , 2011, and that between January 2013 to 2015, she was queried, suspended, and eventually dismissed for her failure to remit N454,234 to the Board of Internal Revenue.
They said she was arrested and released on 16 September, 2015 the same day she was queried.
They admitted that she was never invited to face any panel between the time she was queried and the time she was dismissed.
The defendants also admitted that there was no document before the court to support the assertion that she agreed to refund money allegedly fraudulently taken.
They also filed a counterclaim against the claimant, urging the court to, among other things, compel her to refund the money she allegedly took fraudulently from the government.
In the judgement delivered on the suit on 28 September, 2021, which was seen by this reporter on Thursday, the judge nullified Ms Adebisi’s dismissal and ordered her reinstatement.
The judge ruled that the public service rules on the basis of which she was employed were not followed in dismissing her.
“I hold that the 1st defendant did not comply with the procedure enshrined in the Public Service Rules Vol. 1 section 4 03402(L) of January 2013 in dismissing the claimant from its employment,” the judge said.
He set aside the letter dated 16 November, 2015 issued by the Board of Inland Revenue dismissing the plaintiff as a clerical officer.
“I reinstate and order the immediate reinstatement of the claimant as clerical officer grade level 04 to the pensionable establishment of the Board of Internal Revenue, without any loss of employment rights, including promotion,” Mr Peters ordered.
The court further ordered the Board of Internal Revenue to pay Ms Adebisi all her “arrears of salaries plus allowances from 1 September, 2015 till the day of this judgement.”
He based his verdict on the grounds that Ms Adebisi’s dismissal was in breach of the Civil Service Commission Regulations, Laws of Oyo State of Nigeria, 2000.
The judge ordered the 1st defendant (Board of Inland Revenue) to pay N200,000 as cost of prosecuting the proceedings to the claimant.
“All the terms of this judgement are to be complied with immediately,” the court declared.
Earlier, the court dismissed the preliminary objections filed by the claimant to challenge the court’s jurisdiction.
Claimant’s lawyer demands compliance with judgement
The lawyer to the claimant, Femi Aborisade, has written a letter to the Attorney-General of Oyo State on the need to comply with the verdict.
In the letter dated 7 October, 2021, Mr Aborisade urged the judgement debtors to be law-abiding persons and expressed hope that they would comply with the judgement.
Giving a summary of the verdict, the claimant’s counsel pointed out the need for the judgement debtors to pay his client’s arrears of salaries as ordered by the court.
“The essence of the brief of our client is that the judgement debtors should observe the orders made by the court without any further delay,” the letter read in part.