NDLEA Ordered To Reinstate Illegally Sacked Officer, Pay N11m Cost

Justice Zaynab Bashir of the Port-Harcourt, Rivers State, division of the National Industrial Court (NICN) has declared the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) action of terminating the appointment of one of its officers, Oliver Odoka, as wrongful, unjustifiable, illegal and unconstitutional.

Justice Bashir held that NDLEA’s action was contrary to it’s Regulations and the provisions of Section 36 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended).

Consequently, Justice Bashir has set aside the purported termination of Oliver’s appointment and compelled the NDLEA to reinstate him to his position, including promotion to a deserved rank with payment of all his entitlement, bonuses and allowances which pertain to his rank as  Deputy Superintendent of Narcotics.

The judge also held that NDLEA’s action violates Oliver’s right to fair hearing and the Constitution forbids the imposition of a penalty that is higher than that which is prescribed by law.

The claimant, a Deputy Superintendent of Narcotic, had dragged NDLEA, it’s Chairman/Chief Executive Officer and one Mrs. Omolade Faboyede, (ACGN) before the court in a suit numbered  NICN/PHC/142/2020, wherein he challenged his alleged illegal termination of appointment and also asked for damages. 

During the hearing of the suit, Oliver had told the court that he was queried, suspended and the NDLEA terminated his employment despite proving before the Disciplinary Committee that the allegation against him was false and all his efforts to get reinstatement were to no avail. 

But im defence, the NDLEA and others respondents, objected to the suit on the ground that Oliver’s appointment was terminated on the August 21, 2017, while the instant suit was instituted 3 years after the cause of action arose contrary to the Public Officers Protection Act.

NDLEA lawyer, T. T. Ifugu, told the court that the termination of Oliver’s employment by the NDLEA was in line with its extant rules and regulations and did not in any way infringe on the provision of the 1999 Constitution.

He further contended that due processes were followed and the Management Disciplinary Committee (MDC) after deliberating on the recommendations of the Senior Officers Disciplinary Committee approved the punishment of Termination of Appointment with the effective date August 8, 2017. 

In opposition, Oliver’s Counsel, C. P. Francis, contended that the punishment prescribed for the alleged offence his client committed is demotion for a first offender and termination for a second-time offender, and urged the Court to grant the reliefs sought.

Delivering judgement after careful analysis of the submission of both parties, the Presiding Judge, Hon. Justice Zainab Bashir dismissed the defendant’s objection for lacking merit in the face of the position of the law. 

The Court held that the query issued to Oliver Odoka clearly states to the effect that his conduct amounted to dereliction of duty and not for conduct prejudicial to Discipline and Good Order, that the NDLEA  accorded punishment on an act for which Oliver was not queried. 

Justice Zaynab declared that the action of the NDLEA violates Oliver’s right to fair hearing and the Constitution forbids the imposition of a penalty that is higher than that which is prescribed.

The judge held that NDLEA, its Chief Executive have not presented any evidence before the court which suggests to the contrary that Oliver was indeed a first-time offender which implies that his punishment ought to be demotion in accordance with Paragraph 13(vi) or 13(vii) of the NDLEA Regulations.

She alao held that the NDLEA went beyond the scope of the punishment which can be meted out to Oliver as contended via the agency notice of punishment and in breach of section 36 particularly (1) and (8) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended). 

The Court consequently granted an order compelling the NDLEA to pay the sum of N10, 732, 860 million, being the Claimant’s accrued salary, allowances and entitlements from his last payment till date of filing the suit.

The court also ordered the NDLEA to pay the claimant a monthly rate of N1, 178, 881 million, being his salary, allowances until his reinstatement, and as the cost of action.