The Supreme Court has ordered the Federal Judicial Service Commission to reinstate Mr. Bode Thomas who was compulsorily retired as the Chief Registrar of the Court of Appeal in 2009.
A five-man panel of the Supreme Court, in a unanimous judgment on February 16, 2018, ordered that Thomas be reinstated to his post as the Chief Registrar of the Court of Appeal with effect from the date of his compulsory retirement on March 5, 2009.
Justice Kumai Akaahs faulted the process leading to the FJSC’s decision to compulsorily retire Thomas.
Delivering judgment on an appeal marked SC.228/2013, which was filed by Thomas, the apex court held that the FJSC breached the principles of fair hearing in its handling of the case.
Thomas was compulsorily retired on March 5, 2009 after the FJSC accepted the report of its investigative committee which examined allegations of “serious misconduct” raised against him in a complaint by the then President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Umaru Abdullahi (retd.).
Justice Abdullahi had, by a letter dated November 24, 2008, lodged a complaint against Thomas before the FJSC.
The FJSC is the body concerned with the employment, promotion and discipline of members of staff of all the federal courts and judiciary institutions.
Justice Abdullahi had in his letter to the FJSC accused Thomas, the then Chief Registrar of insubordination and sundry misconduct.
By a letter dated March 5, 2009, FJSC’s Secretary, Hajia B. A. Bashir, informed Thomas that the commission accepted the report of the committee it constituted to investigate the allegations against him and recommended his compulsory retirement in line with Regulation 43(2)(a) of the FJSC Regulations.
Thomas challenged the FSJC’s decision at the Federal High Court via suit: FHC/ABJ/CS/313/09, which he filed on May 27, 2009.
In its judgment on May 12, 2011, the Federal High Court among others, voided Thomas’ sacking and ordered his reinstatement, a decision the FJSC challenged at the Court of Appeal.
In its judgment on January 16, 2013, the Court of Appeal upheld the FJSC’s appeal and set aside the judgment of the Federal High Court.
Thomas then appealed to the Supreme Court, which set aside the Court of Appeal’s judgment and ordered Thomas’ reinstatement.
Justice Akaahs, who prepared the lead judgment of the apex court, held that the Court of Appeal was in grave error when it held that no prejudice or miscarriage of justice was proved by Thomas
He said, “In view of all that transpired and especially based on the fact that the President, Court of Appeal had made up his mind, when he wrote to the Secretary of the FJSC on November 24, 2008, that he could no longer work with the appellant as Chief Registrar of the Court of Appeal and requested that an appropriate disciplinary action be taken against him.
“It is obvious that the appellant did not stand a chance of getting any verdict from the commission (FJSC) other than the one which was recommended by the investigating committee. In other words, the commission was to merely rubber-stamp what the committee had recommended.
“Most of the members of the committee were among those who sat in the commission to approve the recommendations.
“In conclusion, the appeal succeeds in the main. The proceedings of the committee, together with the decision of the FJSC are hereby declared a nullity for failure to adhere strictly to the rules of natural justice.
“The decision taken at the FJSC to compulsorily retire the appellant as the Chief Registrar of the Court of Appeal since March 5, 2009 is hereby set aside.
“The appellant is reinstated to his post as the Chief Registrar of the Court of Appeal with effect from the date of his compulsory retirement.”