Industrial Court Faults Rivers State Sustainable Development Agency over Indefinite Suspension of 139 Staff without Pay

The Presiding Judge, Port Harcourt Judicial Division of the National Industrial Court, His Lordship, Hon. Justice Faustina Kola-Olalere FCIArb has declared that the indefinite suspension of Tekena Lawson, Felix Otto, and Iteke Thomas representing themselves and 136 other staff of Rivers State Sustainable Development Agency without pay since 2017 was not in line with the terms and conditions of their employments. Justice Kola-Olalere held that there is no provision for temporary or indefinite suspension of Tekena Lawson and 136 others employments without pay in their terms and conditions of employments.

The Court further held that Tekena Lawson and 136 others are entitled to their salaries and other entitlements from the Rivers State Sustainable Development Agency with effect from February 2017 until the final determination of their employments, ordered the State Attorney General and the agency to pay Tekena Lawson and 136 others the sum of N300,000.00 as cost of action within 30 days.

From fact, the claimants- Tekena Lawson and 136 others had submitted that it is tantamount to unfair labour practice for the agency to refuse to pay their accrued salaries, wages and emoluments despite the status of their employment, that their employment can only be determined in line with the Civil Service Rules.
In defense, the defendant maintained that as a result of the dwindling economic of the State in 2015, all Government agencies needed to downsize to match up with the reality of the times and so, instead of terminating the employments of its staff, the agency suspended them with a view to sourcing mitigating measures.

A. Sibi Esq. Chief State Counsel maintained that the wordings of the suspension letter stated that the Agency never contemplated payment of salaries during the suspension period until the Agency gets funded, urged the court to dismiss the case.

In opposition, the claimants Counsel Isah Seidu Esq submitted that his clients are entitled to their salaries and all other emoluments as long as their employment has not been terminated by the agency that there is nothing to show that his clients had erred or committed any misconduct, urged the court to grant the reliefs sought.

Delivering the judgment, the presiding Judge, Justice Faustina Kola-Olalere held that Tekena Lawson and 147 others are not Civil Servants even though in the employment of the Rivers State Government, that their employments are not regulated by the Rivers State Civil Service Rules.

Justice Kola-Olalere held that the Rivers State Sustainable Development Agency do not have power under the parties’ agreement on their employment relationships to suspend the employments of Tekena Lawson and 136 others indefinitely and without pay.

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