NEMA Ordered To Pay N100.5m To 36 Unlawfully Disengaged Staff

National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) has been ordered by the Abuja division of the National Industrial Court (NICN), to pay a total sum of N100, 500 million, to its 36 former staff, whose employment were unlawfully cancelled by the agency.

The court presided over by Justice O.A. Obaseki-Osaghae, also declared that the cancellation of the appointment of the Claimants by NEMA is unjustifiable and wrongful. 

The judge also declared that “it is wrong for NEMA to have refused to pay the Claimants their salaries since their appointment on December 24, 2019 and consequently cancel the same appointment on January 25, 2021.

The court further declared that the claimants are entitled to their salaries, allowances, and one month’s gross salary in lieu of notice from the date of their employment December 24, 2019 until the January 25, 2021. While also ordered NEMA to pay the Claimants all their salaries and allowances from the date of their appointment from December 24, 2019 until January 25, 2021; and one month’s gross salary in lieu of notice.

The judge made the orders on February 14, 2023, while judgment in a suit marked NICN/ABJ/109/2021, filed by four disengaged staff of the agency, on behalf of 32 others.

The claimants in suit were: Idumu Olatanwa Adeoti; Akpa Ikechukwu Ogbu; Aliyu Nasiru and Yusuf Lateef Olanrewaju and 32 others, while NEMA was the sole defendant.                  
The claimants through their counsel, Usman O. Sule (SAN) who led the trio of Kalat N. Jatau, Catherine O. Egbodo and Nenbamun D. Longji, asked the court to “declare that the cancellation of their appointment by the NEMA, is unlawful, unjustifiable, null and void.

“A declaration that it is wrong for the NEMA to have refused to pay them their salaries since their appointment on December 24, 2019 and consequently cancel the same appointment on of January 25, 2021.

“A declaration that they are entitled to their salaries, allowances and other entitlements from the date of their employment dated December 24, 2019 until the date Judgement is given.

“A declaration that they be paid all salaries, allowances and other entitlement and their accruing interest from the date of their appointment December 24, 2019 until the date judgment is given.

“An order of the Court directing NEMA to reinstate them and pay all the salaries and other entitlements due to them from the date of their employment.

“An order of the Court awarding the sum of N500 million, as general damages against the NEMA.

“An order of the Court awarding the sum of N1 billion, as special damages in their favour, for loss of time and money, and mental agony caused to the claimants by the action of the Defendant.

During trial of the case, The claimants, represented by Idumu Olatanwa Adeoti, Akpa Ikechukwu Ogbu and Bilkisu Aliyu Saulwa, told the court that they are the employees of the NEMA, who is an agency the Federal Government up till January 25, 2021 when their employment was unlawfully terminated.

The Claimants averred that in September 2019, they and others participated in the recruitment exercise organized by the Defendant that took place at the premises of the Public Service Institute of Nigeria (PSIN) Abuja. Adding that they emerged successful in the recruitment exercise and were given offers of probational appointment by letters dated December 24, 2019. 

They stated that they were instructed by the NEMA to fill and submit an acceptance form for the offer of appointment which they complied with. Adding that the defendant also instructed them to do their documentation which they also dutifully complied with. That having done their documentation they resigned from their various previous employments.
 The claimants’ witnesses averred that on September 18, 2020, they wrote a letter to the NEMA’s Director-General, seeking his intervention in the matter which letter was ignored; and another letter dated November 3, 2020 which was also ignored. Adding that they also wrote letters to the Senate President, Speaker House of Representatives, Chairman House Committee on NEMA, Chairman Federal Character Commission, Chairman, Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, and the Permanent Secretary. 

They stated that they have also gone to the Defendant’s office on numerous occasions without any positive response from the Defendant. But to their surprised, on January 25, 2021, the defendant wrote them a letter informing them that their appointment has been cancelled, on the grounds that the laid down rules and regulations guiding recruitment into the civil service were not duly exhausted thereby vitiating the recruitment process. 

Consequently, the claimants urged the court to grant the all the reliefs sought.

But NEMA through its witnesses, Saidu Inusa, Assistant Chief Admin Officer, and Bashir Idris Garga, Deputy Director Operations, who were led in evidence by their lawyers, Lawal Hassan, M. A Upah and Nancy Okusun, urged the court to dismiss claimants’ suit for being…….

The NEMA’s witnesses in their pleadings stated a recruitment exercise was carried out at the Public Service Institute in which due process was not followed. Adding that the recruitment process was marred with fraud, favoritism, and corrupt practices and that NEMA was not aware of the Claimants previous employment or resignation from their previous employment. 

The witnesses told the court that the Claimants by two letters, one dated June 30, 2020 informing them of the unresolved issues in their recruitment, and another dated January 25, 2021 informing them about the termination of their employment following an investigation. Adding that it contracted the recruitment exercise to the Public Civil Service Institute but that it reserves the right to review the process and if found wanting terminate the Claimants’ employment as the employment was still probatory. 

NEMA’s witnesses also told the court that the 2019 recruitment exercise was canceled, because of non-compliance with procedure and the laid down rules and regulations of the Civil Service. While adding that NEMA is empowered to appoint, terminate, remove or cancel any appointment of any of its staff must be done in line with the Civil Service Rules and Regulations.
 At the end of the trial, parties formulated several issues.

NEMA counsel asked the court to determine the following issues: “Whether an employer has to follow certain procedures in terminating the appointment of an employee on probation.

“Whether an employee on probation whose appointment has been terminated by the employer is entitled to salary, allowances and other entitlement including accruing interest.

“Whether the employer who terminated the appointment of his employee on probation can be forced to reinstate him.

“Whether an employee on probation whose appointment was terminated by his employer is entitled to any damages (general or special damages).”

While the claimants’ counsel asked for the determination of the followings: “Whether having regard to the claims of the Claimants and the evidence adduced in support of the claims, the Claimants can be held to have proved their case on the preponderance of evidence to be entitled to the judgment of this Court.

“Whether the Defendant can legally cancel the recruitment exercise conducted by it in 2019 after more than a year for the reasons adduced by the Defendant.” 
In deciding the suit, Justice Obaseki-Osaghae after going through all the exhibits tendered and admitted, and after citing plethoras of authorites, determined all the issues formulated in favour of the claimants.

The judge after dismissing all the defence put up by NEMA and ruled as follows: “It is declared that the cancellation of the appointment of the Claimants by the Defendant is unjustifiable and wrongful.

“It is declared that it is wrong for the Defendant to have refused to pay the Claimants their salaries since their appointment on the 24th of December 2019 and consequently cancel the same appointment on the 25th of January 2021.

“It is declared that the Claimants are entitled to their salaries, allowances, and one month’s gross salary in lieu of notice from the date of their employment 24th December 2019 until the 25th of January 2021.

“The Defendant is ordered to pay the Claimants all their salaries and allowances from the date of their appointment 24th December 2019 until 25th January 2021; and one month’s gross salary in lieu of notice.

“The Defendant is ordered to pay the Claimants the sum of N100,000,000.00 (One Hundred Million Naira) as general damages.

“Costs in the sum of N500,000.00 awarded the Claimants.

“All sums are to be paid within 30 days. Thereafter, any sum outstanding sum will attract interest at the rate of 10% per annum.

“Judgement is entered accordingly.”