Court Voids Dismissal Of NFVCB’s Chief Film and Video Censorship Officer 

The Abuja division of the National Industrial Court (NICN) has nullified and voided the purported dismissal of Dr. Olusola Peace Anjorin, the Chief Film and Video Censorship Officer of the National Film And Video Censors Board (NFVCB), by the board’s management.

Consequently, Justice Osatohanmwen Ayodele Obaseki, who presided over the court has declared that Dr. Anjorin’s dismissal from the services of the NFVCB defendant through a letter dated June 19, 2019 with reference No. FVCB/HQ/P.228/Vol.1/127 signed by F. O. Abua, NFVCB’s Director of Administration, is unlawful, null and void and of no effect in that the claimant was not given a fair hearing and the dismissal was done in contravention of the Public Service Rules.

Justice Obaseki further make the following declarations and orders: “that the dismissal of the Claimant by the second defendant and the Senior Management Committee without submitting the allegation against the Claimant to the Governing Board of the first defendant for proper trial to enable him present his defence before the Governing Board is unconstitutional, null and void and of no effect being in contravention of section 36 of the Constitution of Nigeria, 1999 as amended.

“I declare that the dismissal of the claimant from the services of the first defendant through publications placed on the Notice Board of the first defendant in Abuja on April 23, 2019 signed by F. O. Abua, Director of Administration of the first defendant and on the WhatsApp Platform of the first defendant on April 23, 2019 is unlawful, null and void and of no effect.

“I declare that the removal of the name of the claimant from the payroll of the defendant and the stoppage of his salary by the second defendant without the approval of the Governing Board of the first defendant since August 2018, and without being tried and found guilty of any misconduct is ultra vires the powers of the second defendant unconstitutional, null and void and of no effect.

“I declare that the withholding of the promotion of the claimant to the rank of Assistant Director Grade Level 15 in year 2018 by the defendants is unlawful, null and void.

“The letter of dismissal dated June 19, 2019 with reference No. FVCB/HQ/P.228/Vol.1/127 signed by F. O. Abua, Director of Administration of the first defendant is hereby set aside. The publication of the dismissal of the claimant from service placed on the notice board of the first defendant in Abuja and on the WhatsApp Platform on 23rd April, 2019 signed F. O. Abua, Director of Administration are hereby set aside.

“The decision of the second defendant removing the name of the claimant from the payroll of the first defendant and the stoppage of claimant’s salary by the defendants since August 2018 is set aside.

“The defendants are ordered to immediately release the 2018 promotion of the claimant to the position of Assistant Director Operations.

“The claimant is reinstated immediately as Assistant Director in the Department of Operations on Grade Level 15 with no loss of seniority, and with all the rights and privileges of the office.

“The defendants are ordered to immediately restore and pay the claimant all his salaries and allowances in the sum of N147,207.29, per month from August, 2018 till date; and also ordered to pay the salary difference accruing on his promotion in 2018 to Assistant  Director Grade level 15.

“The defendants are ordered to pay the Claimant outstanding sum of N1.3 million, being the balance of his baggage and passage allowance and cost of instituting the suit.

“All sums are to be paid within 30 days. Thereafter any sum outstanding will attract interest at the rate of 15 percent per annum.

“An Injunction is granted restraining the defendants, their servants and/or agents from preventing the claimant from performing the functions and duties as Assistant Director, Operations and/or from interfering with his enjoyment of the rights, privileges and benefits attached to the said office.

“An order is granted setting aside any further step or directive or order of the defendants that seek to interfere with or violate the Claimant’s right to his promotion, position, and office as Assistant Director, Operations.

Justice Obaseki made the above declarations and orders on December 15, 2023, while delivering judgment in a suit instituted by the claimant, Dr. Anjorin against NVFCB and Alhaji Adebayo Thomas, listed as first and second defendants a suit numbered  NICN/ABJ/269/2019.

The claimant, Olushola Peace Anjorin, through his lawyer, Prof. Joash Ojo Amupitan (SAN), leading  Dr Mrs R. O. Amupitan, Francis M. Nworah, Adegboyega Kolade, had sought the granted declarations and orders against the defendants.

The claimant, during the trial of the suit, had pleaded that he was until his purported dismissal on June 19, 2019, he was a staff of the 1st Defendant and Chief Film and Video Censorship Officer (CFVCO) in the Department of Operations of the NFVCB. And that on December 13, 2002, he was employed by the NFVCB as Film and Video Censorship Officer 1 on Grade Level 09 Step 2. On November 29, 2004 his appointment was confirmed by the NFVCB and on November 30, 2004, he was promoted to the position of Senior Film and Video Censorship Officer on Grade Level 10. And on November 10, 2015, he was promoted to the rank of Chief Film and Video Censorship Officer on Grade Level 14 with effect from January 1, 2015.

Dr. Anjorin also stated that on September 17, 2018, the Minister of Information and Culture issued a circular addressed to all Chief Executives of Parastatals including the Mrs. F. O. Abua, that they should refrain from transferring their officers if they are unable to meet the financial obligation involved. He averred that the Circular prompted the NFVCB to make a part payment of the sum of N420,000.00, in September and December 2018, to him while the balance of N600, 000, 00, is still outstanding. Adding that on August 9, 2018, he received a query dated August 3, 2018 from Mrs Bola Athar Deputy Director in the Department of Administration sent through the NFVCB’s official email alleging that he proceeded on study leave without approval and had absconded from his duty post having requested for study leave and failed to formalize it, while he was given 24 hours within which to respond to the query; and he immediately responded on August 9, 2018, by email to Mrs. Bola Athar stating that he had to defer his studies for lack of communication of approval by the defendant.

He stated that he performed his duties satisfactorily, and that the claim that he absconded is untrue. Adding that he was shocked when his August salary was not paid, and that when his September salary was also not paid he made enquiries and found that the second defendant had instructed a stoppage of his salary with effect from August 2018, and there was no communication to him on the stoppage of his salary or the reason for it. He added that it was the second defendant who directed that he be queried, stopped his salary, and dismissed him without fair hearing using the Senior Management Committee that is unknown to the Public Service Rules. 

Dr. Anjorin further stated that neither the second defendant nor the Senior Management Committee has the power to decide that he be dismissed and cannot make any recommendation to the Governing Board without allowing the Governing Board to make its own investigation and findings. Adding that on November 1, 2018 he instructed his Solicitors to write to the first defendant complaining of the unjust treatment and the restoration of the salary. And that upon the refusal of the defendants to respond to the letter, he filed a Complaint on March 29, 2019 against the defendant Suit No: NICN/ABJ/77/2019. He further added that while the case was pending, there was a publication on the Notice Board of the first defendant on April 23, 2019 signed by F. O. Abua, Director of Administration informing staff of the Governing Board’s approval at its meeting of 26th March, 2019 of disciplinary actions against some staff which included him. It was stated that he had been dismissed as a result of serious misconduct bothering on abscondment with effect from March 26, 2019. Adding that the second defendant also caused the notice to be placed on the first defendant’s staff WhatsApp platform stating that the Governing Board had ratified disciplinary measures against some staff which included the Claimant who was dismissed from the service of the first defendant with effect from March 26, 2019 for abscondment.

The claimant told the court that the defendants did not give him a fair hearing as required by the Public Service Rules and the 1999 Constitution. He stated that the meeting of the Governing Board of the first defendant alleged to have held on 26th March, 2019 was held in secret at the conference room of the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture with only 20 out of the 54 members of the Governing Board in attendance; and that the issue of discipline was not on the agenda and there was no disciplinary report was presented to the Board. 

The claimant stated that as an employee on CONSPSS Consolidated Salary GL. 14 step 2, he is not in accordance with the Public Service Rules within the disciplinary powers of the 2nd Defendant. That as an employee with statutory flavour, he cannot be summarily dismissed by the defendants without following the procedure contained in the Public Service Rules which was not followed in this case. Adding that the decision to query him and dismiss him was taken solely by the second defendant who was biased against him; and who was the investigator, accuser, and the Judge. 

Defending the suit, the first and second defendants through their lawyer, M. O. Onyilokwu, told the court that the claimant has has been dismissed, adding that promotion in government office is not automatic but subject to qualification to write promotion examination and success in the examination. And that the claimant sat for the promotion examination but before the conclusion of the promotion process disciplinary action had commenced against him after his abscondment from office.

They also stated that it was not the second defendant that stopped claimant’s promotion. Adding that the claimant is fond of using language unbecoming and that this is seen in a petition he wrote in 2010 to the Executive Director against a fellow member of staff. 

They averred that the first defendant as an agency of the government must follow due process in all official dealings; and that the payment of the second defendant’s allowance followed due process as a fresh appointee. Adding that if the claimant ever stayed in hotels or travelled by air, those were his choices and private arrangement and had nothing to do with his official duty.

[17] The Defendants stated that the circular from the Minister of Information and Culture to Chief Executive of Parastatals’ including the 2nd Defendant has nothing to do with the Claimant’s contract of service. The Defendants further stated that the Claimant was paid a total of N272,199.01 as part of his relocation allowance before he absconded from duty. They stated that the query issued the Claimant was appropriately issued and officially communicated to him as the Department of Administration is in charge of Personnel, and Mrs Bola Athar then the Deputy Director Administration is a superior officer to the Claimant, and also the Deputy Director Personnel in charge of employees appointment, promotion and discipline. All members of staff of the 1st Defendant are under the Department of Administration. The Defendants further stated that they did not breach any of the provisions of the Public Service Rules; that rather, it is the Claimant that violated the provisions of the Public Service Rules by proceeding on study leave without approval. The Defendants stated that the Claimant absconded from his duty post for about six months before the query was issued and served on him. They averred that the Claimant was not present at Departmental meetings and attendance records do not show his presence at Departmental meetings as he had absconded.

They further stated that the query dated August 3, 2018 was sent to the claimant electronically because having absconded from duty he could not be found to be served the hard copy of the query. Upon receiving the electronic copy, the claimant sent Mr. Jack Okoko, the chairman of Radio, Television and Theatre Art Workers Union (RATTAWU) to collect the hard copy of the query and send it to him which Mr. Jackie Okoko did. Adding that the defendants stated that the answer of the claimant to the query was evasive and he did not deny the allegations contained therein. The Defendants averred they never approved study leave for the claimant to attend Lead City University, Ibadan or any institution to study Public Administration or any other course but the claimant on his own volition absconded from his duty post. 

The defendants averred that when it was impossible to personally serve the claimant the hard copy of the dismissal letter, it was sent to him by courier service, even though, he admitted that he knew of his dismissal in April 2019. And that the dismissal was officially communicated through the WhatsApp platform of the first defendant and pasted on the Notice Board prompting the claimant to withdraw his Suit on 19/6/2019. They added that the claimant can only remain in service till 1/4/2016 and retire if he is of good conduct, and not when he absconded from his work as he has done.

Consequently, the defendants urged the Court to dismiss the claimant’s claims with substantial cost.

Delivering judgment on suit, Justice Obaseki, after going through all the submissions of the parties, perused all documentary exhibits tendered and cited plethoras of legal authorites, dismissed all the arguments canvassed by the first and second defendants and granted above declarations and orders as sought by the claimant.

In granting the declarations and orders, the judge held that: “…… having held that the dismissal of the claimant from the services of the first defendant is a nullity, he is entitled to automatic reinstatement. The claimant is reinstated into the service of the first defendant immediately as Assistant Director on Grade level 15, with all the rights and privileges he is entitled to, and with no loss of seniority. See Shitta-Bey v Federal Public Service Commission supra, Iderima v Rivers State Civil Service Commission supra, Olatunbosun v NISER Council [1983] 3 NWLR (Pt 80) 25, Olaniyan v University of Lagos[1985] 2 NWLR (Pt 9) 599.

“The defendants are ordered to immediately release and pay the Claimant all his salaries, allowances and all other entitlements due to him as Chief Film and Video Censorship Officer (CFVCO) from August 2018 when his salary and allowances were wrongfully withheld in the sum of One Hundred and Forty-Seven Thousand, Two Hundred and Seven Naira, Twenty-Nine Kobo (N147,207.29) per month from August, 2018 till date.

“For all the reasons given above, I hereby declare and make the following orders…………”