From Tony Osauzo and Ighomuaye Lucky, Benin
The Benin Division of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria yesterday nullified the sack of workers of the Edo State College of Agriculture, Iguoriakhi and ordered a compensation of N4m each for all the affected workers and a general damage of N500,000 to the claimants.
The court in a judgment delivered by Justice Abiola A. Adewemimo in suit no NICN/BEN/25/2018 between Mr Imhenrion O. Martin, Mr Adorolo O. Michael, Mr Osayande Clifford, Mrs. Mercy Ozabor, Mr Eikhor Nosakhare Abel as claimants and Edo State Government, Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources, the Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice, Provost of the College of Agriculture, Iguoriakhi and the Governing Council of the College as defendants, said the compensation should be paid to the almost 90 workers within 30 days and failure to do same, the amount will attract an annual interest of ten per cent.
It held that the state government was wrong to have claimed that the workers were temporary workers as according to her their letters of employment indicated a period of probation which the court said does not translate to temporary workers.
“This court is to check labour practice and for the defendants to say their employment was temporary connotes unfair labour practices”, Justice Adewemimo stated.
She added that even though an employer has the right to terminate employments, such actions must be done in accordance with established conditions of service which the Edo State government failed to do the instant case.
Besides, Justice Adewemimo said though the government did not show any evidence that the school was no longer in existence but that it was being restructured and therefore it would be difficult to reinstate the workers as demanded.
The court therefore held that the special damages in the form of salaries and promotions claimed by the workers could not be given because they did not prove them with the statutorily required documents to enjoy such benefits.
Reacting to the judgment, Counsel to the workers, Matthew Edaghese, said “the court has in its wisdom held that the so-called termination of appointment was null and void, it negates all known and relevant labour laws. It was a reckless executive indiscretion. This is a warning to the executive arm of government that they are governed by the laws of the land and they are not laws unto themselves”.
The workers had instituted the court action in August 2018 as a result of the termination of their appointment by the state government which said it was restructuring the institution.