Court Orders FRSC To Reinstate Officer Accused Of collecting Money From Job Seeker

The Calabar, Cross-River division of the National Industrial Court, has set aside the employment termination of an official of the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) Mr. Patrick Akpan, accused of collecting the sum of N150, 000, from a job seeker. 

The court presided over by Justice Sanusi Kado also ordered that Akpan be immediately reinstated.

Justice Kado who described Akpan’s termination of appointment as a ‘harsh punishment’, which was harsher than what the regulation has provided, held that the termination cannot stand for non-compliance with the FRSC Establishment Act.   

Justice Kado however ordered Akpan to pay the full payment of the lost money in the sum of N150,000.00, within three months and provide of such payment and submit same to the court’s Registrar before he can be reinstated into the service.

From facts, the claimant- Mr. Patrick Akpan had stated that he was not served with any notice of intention to terminate his appointment as required by law or formerly tried of any alleged offence, and his attempt to put defense was disrupted by the panel, and the reason for the determination of his employment was not stated in the letter of termination.

Oliver A. Osang, Esq; counsel for Mr. Akpan argued that the termination of his client’s employment by the FRSC runs against the provision of the Labour Act, and not in accordance with any known law of the land including the Federal Road Safety Commission (Establishment) Act.

In defence, the defendants, FRSC and its Corps Marshal averred that Mr. Akpan was queried for collecting the sum of N150,000.00 to secure employment for one Cynthia with the agency, but stated that it was a loan and could not return the money.

The defendants submitted that the termination of Akpan’s appointment followed due process and did not breach his right to a fair hearing, as Mr. Akpan was queried, he replied to the query and appeared before the disciplinary committee but failed to exonerate himself from the allegation levelled against him.

In addition, the FRSC stated that Mr. Akpan failed to serve 30 days pre-action notice, as he served only two days before the institution of the suit, that the case is incompetent and urged the court to strike out the case for non-compliance with the condition precedent as provided in the Federal Road Safety Commission (Establishment) Act.

Replying, counsel to Mr. Akpan stated that a pre-action notice was issued on February 18, 2021 and served on the FRSC via a courier service of Nigerian postal service on February 25 2021 and the suit was filed on March 31 2021, which is more than 30 days required by law, urged the court to dismiss the objection with cost and do substantial justice as the era of technicality is over. 

Delivering the judgment after careful evaluation of the submission of both parties, the presiding Judge, Justice Sanusi Kado dismissed the defendants’ objection and held that by the posting rule, the pre-action notice posted or dispatched by Mr. Akpan on February 25, 2021, which conveyed to the defendants the pre-action notice, was deemed to have been delivered to the respondent upon the same being delivered to the NIPOST for delivery to the FRSC, at the address furnished.

The Court also held that there seems to be compliance with the laid down procedure for discipline in the proceeding for the investigation of Mr. Akpan and there cannot be said to be breach of any right to fair hearing.

Justice Kado held that the punishment of termination of Mr. Patrick Akpan’s appointment was done in violation of the proviso to Regulation 50(1) (a-K) of the Federal Road Safety Commission Regulations on Discipline 2018, made pursuant to section 5 of the Federal Road safety commission (Establishment) Act 2007.

“The defendants are hereby ordered to reinstate the claimant back to his post in the employment of the first defendant with immediate effect. However, if the claimant failed to pay in full the lost money within three months from the date of this judgment his appointment shall stands terminated.” The Court ruled.