The Presiding Judge, Benin Judicial division of the National Industrial Court, His Lordship, Hon. Justice Adunola Adewemimo has ordered the Edo State Government and the State Pension Board to pay retired Judge of Edo State High Court, HON. JUSTICE JAMES OYAKHIROME the sum of N30,301,584.60 (Thirty Million, Three Hundred and One Thousand, Five Hundred and Eighty-Four Naira, Sixty Kobo) as gratuity, N11,728,907.06k outstanding balance of monthly pension from August 2019 till the date within 30 days.
The court held that the arguments of the state government that the pension of the retired Justice James Oyakhirome should be apportioned between his previous employer University of Benin and the State government are unsustainable and misconceived.
From fact, the claimant- Justice James Oyakhirome had submitted that he served as a Judge of the High Court of Edo State for twelve years without blemish and retired in December 2018 upon attainment of the mandatory retirement age of 65 years.
The retired jurist asked for a determination amongst others whether he’s not entitled to receive payment of his retirement benefits as a retired Judge of the High Court of Edo State wholly and exclusively from the Defendants in strict compliance with provisions of the Constitution and the Pension Rights of Judges Act, that his pension from January 2019 to June 2019 remained unpaid till date.
In defense, the Edo State Government and the State Pension Board averred that the payment of the Justice James benefits is a shared responsibility between the state and the University of Benin to which the retired judge had earlier rendered service before his judicial career, noted that Justice James spent a total of 34 years in the public service, made up of 22 years as a Lecturer in the University of Benin and 12 years as a Judge in the Edo State Judiciary and as such payment of his benefits is a joint responsibility between the state and the federal government.
In opposition, K.O. Obamogie Esq. counsel to the retired judge reiterated that the appropriate authority to pay his client’s pension is the State Government, and cannot evade the constitutional responsibility urged the court to grant the reliefs sought.
Learned defense counsel, W.O. Akpata Esq submitted that the argument by his colleague that the era of sharing of pension between the Federal and State Government ended on the 31st of March, 1976 is misconceived, urged the court to dismiss the case.
Delivering the judgment after careful evaluation of the submission of both parties, the presiding Judge, Justice Adunola Adewemimo held that once a judicial officer attains 15 years in service, he will be entitled to full pension and retirement benefits as a judicial officer, while lesser years of service will be pro-rated in relation to 15 years.
Justice Adewemimo described the argument of the state government on the sharing of pension as an aberration and not contemplated or envisaged by the drafters of the Constitution.
The Court held that the state government’s reliance on the Pensions Act 1990 that the pension and gratuity of the retired jurist be apportioned between the Federal Government and the Edo State Government has been replaced by the Pension Reform Act of 2014, and the repealed law is obsolete and of no legal.