His Lordship, Hon. Justice Sanusi Kado of the Abuja Judicial division of the National Industrial Court has nullified the purported termination of the Mr. Felix Olakulehin from the National Open University of Nigeria, ordered immediate reinstatement to his position as a Research Fellow 1/ Lecturer 1 in the Regional Training and Research Institute for Open and Distance Learning (RETRIDAL), with payment of salaries from June 2015 till date within 30 days.
The court held that the entire procedure adopted by the institution and the governing council in terminating Felix’s appointment is a kangaroo procedure that is alien to the law establishing the University and a clear violation of the principle of natural justice, awarded the sum of Five Hundred Thousand Naira against the school for the cost of action.
From facts, the claimant’s- Mr. Felix Olakulehin had submitted that he got approval to study for a doctoral programme abroad in 2010 – 2013, that after the various request and approval of study leave extension, the University on 9th December 2015 stopped payments of his salary and entitlement.
He submitted further that in 2015 he was served a letter recalling him to report to duty on or before 29/1/2016 and was later summoned to appear before a staff disciplinary committee on 20/6/2016, which he appeared in August 2016 where he was only asked questions but disallowed from presenting any evidence in defence of the allegation of abscondment which was all available at the time of the meeting. That aftermath of the meeting, he was placed on suspension without pay that On 12/1/2018 a letter dated 29/8/2017 was delivered to him to the effect that his appointment had been terminated.
In defence, the University submitted that the felix’s salary was stopped due his refusal to resume work as advised that he had to be recalled due to his failure to conclude his three years PhD programme and resume duty despite several extensions granted to him to enable him conclude and resume duty.
Further maintained that the termination of the claimant’s employment was done in accordance with the rules and regulations governing Felix’s conditions of service that the claimant did not only absconded from duty, but he also came back without the PhD Certificate despite the huge sum of money spent on him urged the court to hold that that the termination of the appointment on the ground of abscondment of duty was rightfully done and to dismiss the case in its entirety.
In opposition, the claimant counsel A. Olujinmi, Esq maintained that the committee’s decision and approval of the Management was a violent breach of the right of the claimant to a fair hearing and a nullity in law urged the court to hold so.
Delivering the Judgement, the presiding Judge, Hon. Justice Sanusi Kado held that the governing council ratification of recommendation for termination of appointment of the claimant without notifying him of the reasons for and giving him opportunity to appear before the governing council to defend himself is a clear violation of the principle of natural justice.
“I must shudder at this juncture to observe that the entire procedure adopted by the defendants in terminating claimant’s appointment is a kangaroo procedure that is alien to the law establishing the University and making procedure to be followed in taking disciplinary action against the claimant.
“It is to be noted that this court does not have the vires to consider whether the claimant absconded from duty or not what this court is to determine is to see that laid down procedure by the law is complied with or not.”