National Industrial Court of Nigeria, Sokoto Judicial Division has ordered Federal College of Education (Technical) Gusau to pay two plaintiffs the sum of N8,297,196.03 (eight million, two hundred and ninety seven thousand, one hundred and ninety six naira, three kobo) being witheld salaries for the period of interdiction, period of suspension, one month salary in lieu of notice, and arrears of pension from June 2011 to July 2018 within 30 days of this judgment failure upon which the judgment sum shall attract 10 % interest per annum.
The claimants ,Abdullahi Mohammed Gusau and Lawal Hamidu Gusau, had commenced this Court at the Kano Judicial Division by a complaint dated and filed on 11/8/2016. The claimants are asking for the following reliefs; A declaration that the Claimants being Public Servants in the pensionable employment of the Defendant, are entitled to the payment of their withheld salaries and monetization, pensions and gratuities, upon the determination of the contracts of employment existing between the Claimants and the Defendant on the 24th June, 2011. A declaration that the letters dated 29th December, 2010 purporting to suspend the Claimants are unlawful, illegal and of no effect, since the 1st Defendant woefully ran foul of chapter 6.6.1 of the Regulations. A declaration that the Defendant’s letters dated 24th June, 2011 purporting to terminate the Claimant’s appointments are wrongful and of no effect as the Defendant did not follow the provisions of chapter 7.2 of the Regulations.
The claimants were employees of the defendant from 1995 and were also members and officials of the Federal College of Education (Technical) Gusau Senior Staff Association (SSA). Following some alleged misappropriation of the funds of the said SSA, an allegation made by the defendant, the claimants were placed on interdiction and later suspension, they were prosecuted and discharged, faced disciplinary committee of the defendant and subsequently their employments were terminated on 24th June, 2011 contrary to the recommendation of the disciplinary committee.
By a preliminary objection filed on 27/3/2017, the defendant prayed the Court to strike out this suit for being statute barred thereby robbing this Court of jurisdiction to entertain same; this objection was dismissed in a ruling dated 712/2017 on the ground that part of the claim related to withheld salaries, gratuities and pension; which claims are exempted from the application of the Public Officers Protection Act, being claims for work and labour done.
Learned Counsel held that both claimants are not qualified for pension and gratuity in line with the Regulations Governing the Conditions of Service of Staff. The learned counsel further stated that if both claimants were qualified they would have done that out of time of the statutory 3 months stipulated by the Public Officers Act 2014.
The defendant has also argued that the claim of the claimants for pension is premature and the court lacks jurisdiction because by reason of Section 106(1) and 107(1) of the Pensions Reform Act, any person who is aggrieved by the decision of his pension administrator or employer in respect of pension matters under this Act is to first explore dispute resolution but the claimants have not done so in this case.
Counsel thereafter urged the Court to hold that the suit is lacking in merit, incompetent, statute-barred and liable to be dismissed.
Counsel to the claimants submitted that the claimants have earned certain entitlements and that the failure of the defendant to pay all those entitlements, rendered their termination unlawful and unconstitutional.
Reviewing the argument,processes filed and the submissions of learned Counsel for both parties,the Court Presided by Hon. Justice K. D. Damulak expressed that “the contention at the hearing of this suit that the claimants are not by the rules of their employment eligible for pension and gratuity does not amount to such decision contemplated by the Act and it only shows that the defendant took no action on the issue of the pension and gratuity of the claimants.
“The combined effect of this together with Rule15.5.1 is that the defendant has a duty to pay the pensions and gratuities of the claimant. These rules were not provided for in the defendant’s rules for fun. I hold that the defendant cannot escape liability for payment of the claimants’ pension.
“I accordingly hold that the claimants have proved their entitlements to gratuity and pension against the defendant.” Justice Damulak stated.
His Lordship ordered defendant to pay to each of the claimants the sum of N8,297,196.03 (eight million, two hundred and ninety seven thousand,one hundred and ninety six naira, three kobo) for witheld salaries for the period of interdiction, period of suspension, 50% monization; one month salary in lieu of notice, and arrears of pension from June 2011 to July 2018 which is to paid within 30 days of this judgment failure upon which the judgment sum shall attract 10 % interest per anum.
“The defendant is hereby ordered to pay the claimants their monthly pensions of N50, 631.2 henceforth.