Justice Adunola Adewemimo of the Benin Division of the National Industrial Court has ordered the Edo state government to pay the sum of N20 million as damages for the unlawful termination of employment of its staff.
She declared that the termination of employment of Mr. Imhenrion Martin, Mr. Adorolo Micheal, and 3 others from Edo State College of Agriculture, Iguoriakhi was unlawful.
The judge held that the provisions contained in the College Law do not empower the State’s Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources to directly employ or terminate employment made by the College Governing Council.
What happened in court
The Claimants (Mr Martin and others) were staff employed by the College of Agriculture, Iguoriakhi until 2018 when they were relieved of their employments.
They told the court that the state Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources had terminated their employment with effect from January 31 2018.
They claim all efforts made by them to be compensated by the college yielded no fruit.
The defendants submitted that the claimants were relieved of their position pursuant to the decision to restructure and reposition the college.
They claim they later paid the claimants extra one month notice as specified by their conditions of service.
The defendants submitted that the Edo State College of Agriculture is no longer in existence, and the Salary Grade Level stated in the employment letters is HATTIS which no longer exists in the Edo State Civil Service Rules.
They prayed the court to dismiss the case in its entirety.
M. Edaghese, claimants counsel while responding, contended that the Edict establishing the college is still in force since no law has been passed to repeal it. He added that the procedure for the termination of statutory employment was not followed in the case of the claimants.
He therefore urged the court to grant the reliefs sought by the claimants.
What the judge ruled
In her ruling, Justice Adunola held that Edo State College of Agriculture, Iguoriakhi, was created by Edo State College of Agriculture Edict, 1991 and the State Civil Service Rules applied to the claimants employment in the absence of any regulation for the college.
She also held that the claimants appointments had not been terminated on the ground of misconduct but restructuring which ought to be categorized under redundancy in the employment law.
The court did not grant a relief of the claimants seeking their reinstatement on the ground that the offices held by them no longer existed which rendered them redundant.
The judge also did not grant the claimants’ claim for the payment of their salaries, and promotions as they could not prove it .
“The claimant’s in this case however failed to lead evidence on their ages, dates of retirement, payslips or claim any severance allowance, as a result of which this Court is constrained to grant only general sum as damages in favour of the claimants in this case for the unlawful termination of their employments,” the judge ruled.
She ordered Edo State Government, the Commissioner of Agriculture & Natural Resources, Commissioner of Justice, Provost and the Governing Council, Iguoriakhi College Of Agriculture to pay the calimants the sum of N20 million as damages for unlawful employment termination, and another N500,000 as cost of action within 30 days.