The National Industrial Court (NIC) sitting in Abuja has ordered the immediate reinstatement of Captain Benedict Olusoji Akani who was compulsory retired into the Nigerian Army.
Besides, the court awarded the cost of N75m against the Nigeria Army in favour of the claimant as general damages for the pyschological trauma he suffered as a result of the illegal action against him by the Army.
The court made the orders after setting aside his compulsory retirement the 1st defendant through letter (ref AHQ MS/300/226) dated 22nd day of June, 2017 as illegal, null and void.
The Army General Court Martial had in it’s judgement of November 18, 1998 sentenced and convicted the claimant who was charged on counts of stealing and conspiracy to steal the stolen metal panels and wire rolls.
The General Court Martial however acquitted him on allegations of stealing but found him guilty of conspiracy to steal and therefore, the 2nd defendant directed the 1st defendant to take disciplinary measures on the claimant.
As a result, the 1st defendant, by Annexure 1, demoted the claimant from the rank of Captain to Second Lieutenant, and furthermore, compulsorily retired him with effect from 10th April 2000.
Dissatisfied, the claimant appraoched the Lagos division of the Court of Appeal challenging the judgement at the General Court Martial.
In it’s judgment delivered on July 8, 2016, the appellate court set aside the conviction, demotion of the claimant should be reinstated into the 1st defendant, restore his rank and also that he should not suffer any disadvantage in his seniority in the said rank as a result of the trial.
However, the defendants disobeyed, ridiculed and disregarded the order of the Court of Appeal by restoring the claimant merely to the rank of Captain and immediately compulsorily retired him with effect from April 10, 2000 without any further benefit.
It was on this premised that the claimant approached the NIC, in
case No. NICN/ABJ/125/2018, against the Nigerian Army, The Nigerian Army Council, Chief of Army Staff, Attorney General of the Federation & Minister of Justice who were listed as 1st, 2nd, 3rd 4th Defendants respectively.
Delivering judgment, the President of the NIC, Justice Kanyip held that
the Nigerian Army rather than comply with the orders of the Court of Appeal setting aside the judgment of the Army General Court Martial, as contained in Annexure 2, “the 1st, 2nd and 3rd defendants disobeyed, ridiculed and disregarded the order of the Court of Appeal by restoring the claimant merely to the rank of Captain and immediately compulsorily retired him with effect from 10th April 2000 without any further benefit.
The Judge further held by the order of the Court of Appeal, the 1st, 2nd and 3rd defendants ought to reinstate the claimant back into their services as if the claimant never left, since the judgment of the General Court Martial has been wholly and completely set aside, thus not subsisting anymore.
The judge held that there is no gainsaying that the refusal of especially the Army to restore the claimant to his employment shattered the claimant’s expectations.
Adding that the disobedience of the Army to the Court of Appeal decision, which disobedience is the failure of the defendants to restore the claimant to his employment as an Officer of the 1st defendant must accordingly be recompensed especially in terms of the failed expectations of the claimant in that regard.
“So, for acting arbitrarily, for disobeying the Court of Appeal, and for refusing to restore the claimant to his employment, I assess the general damages of the claimant for lost expectations at N75 Million, which I hereby award.
On the whole, and for the avoidance of doubt, the claimant’s case succeeds in part, and only in terms of the following declaration and orders:
It is hereby declared that the compulsory retirement of the claimant by the 1st defendant through letter (ref AHQ MS/300/226) dated 22nd day of June, 2017 is illegal, null and void.
It is hereby ordered that the 1st defendant shall pay to the claimant the sum of N75 Million only being general damages for loss of expectation in the claimant’s chosen career, training and psychological trauma suffered by the claimant as a result of the arbitrary and illegal action of the Army, the said N75 Million shall be paid within 30 days of this judgment” which is from May 27, 2020 counting.
“I note that the claimant became Captain in 1997. I note that the Court of Appeal decision was delivered on 8th July 2016. I note that Annexure 3, which confirmed the compulsory retirement of the claimant effective 10th April 2000 is dated 22nd June 2017. All of these signify that had the defendants complied with the Court of Appeal decision of 8th July 2016, the claimant would have been in the employment of especially the 1st defendant as of 22nd June 2017 when Annexure 3 was written. So, for acting arbitrarily, for disobeying the Court of Appeal, and for refusing to restore the claimant to his employment, I assess the general damages of the claimant for lost expectations at N75 Million, which I hereby award.” the National Industrial court learned judge verdict.