Relief finally came the way of a manager with the Oil and Gas Free Zone Authority, OAFZA, Olufunmilayo David Omosule, who was suspended from office since April 18, 2011, as the National Industrial Court of Nigeria, NIC, sitting in Abuja, Federal Capital Territory, and presided over by Hon. Justice Olufunke. Y. Anuwe, quashed the suspension and ordered the agency to recall and reinstate him with immediate effect.
Recall that Omosule was suspended by the management of the OAFZA, vide a letter dated April 18, 2011, over an alleged failure to submit the originals of his credentials for vetting during a promotion exercise, a claim he denied, countering that he ran into trouble waters with the management over his role in an alleged misappropriation of a N100 million generator set fund.
Omosule had insisted that he duly submitted the Certified True Copies, CTC, of his credentials, since the originals had been misplaced, but the agency still claimed not to have the documents.
The matter had dragged forth and back, without any headway until 2016, when Omosule approached the National Industrial Court, NIC, for legal resolution. The police were eventually involved, leading to a criminal case of forgery, involving two senior staff of the authority at the Magistrate Court, Abuja.
In her ruling, Hon. Justice Anuwe quashed Omosule’s suspension, insisting that the continued application of the said letter of suspension of over 12 years to suspend Omosule is oppressive, unjustifiable, null and void and of no effect.
The court also described as unjust and unfair, the stoppage of Omosule’s salaries and allowances on the basis of the said letter since April, 2011.
The court subsequently ruled that the management of the OAFZA should compute and pay Omosule his salaries and allowances from April 2011 till the date of execution of the judgment.
The court held that “suspension does not amount to termination of employment. An employee on suspension is nonetheless an employee until terminated. The claimant therefore remains the employee of the agency all the while on suspension.
“The claimant has been on suspension for a period of over 12 years. He was neither recalled nor terminated. The period is rather too long to keep the claimant on suspension. The defendant kept the claimant on suspension for 12 years without taking a decision on the employment of the claimant, thereby putting the claimant on apprehension of his fate and status of his employment. He lives day by day in anticipation, not knowing whether he will be recalled or will be terminated. I hold that the continued suspension of the claimant from April 2011 till date is wrongful, oppressive, unjust and unfair.
“For this reason, I will set aside the suspension of the claimant and order the defendant to recall the claimant with effect from the date of this judgment.”
The court however, declined Omosule’s plea that he be placed on Grade Level 17, or the position and grade level which his colleagues who were managers like him in April 2011 are currently occupying in the employment of the authority.
Hon. Justice Anuwo declared that his promotion depended on the verification of his credentials, which have not been done till date.
She averred, “The issue with the claimant’s credentials is still unresolved by the defendant. The duty is exclusively for the defendant, and not the duty of this court.”
The court held further that “from the facts, the claimant did not present the originals of his certificates for verification, because according to him, they were lost, and the defendant has not verified or certified him cleared on the CTCs he allegedly submitted. It was for the reason that he failed to present the originals of his certificates that he was suspended. It is therefore, clear to me that promotion of the claimant depends on the verification of his credentials, which has not been till now.”
She therefore ordered the management of the OAFZA to immediately reinstate him within 30 days of delivering the judgment.
The court also ordered the authority to pay Omosule a sum of N500,000 as costs.