Okey Sampson, Umuahia
The National Industrial Court sitting at Owerri, the Imo State capital, has reinstated 460 of the over 4,000 non-indigene workers disengaged by Abia State Government in August 2011.
Abia State Government had in a circular of August 25, 2011, entitled, “Back-loading on the transfer of non-indigenes in the Abia State service to their States of origin”, disengaged over 4,000 workers.
However, in suit No. NICN/OW/45/2018, 460 of the workers represented by Njoku Fidelia Ada, Unogu Jude Ugochukwu, Ekwegh Catherine Obehie and Okolie Georgiana took the Abia State Government to the Industrial Court.
In support of the originating summons, in an affidavit of 28 paragraphs deposed to by Unogu Jude Ugochukwu (the 2nd Claimant) and six accompanying exhibits lettered A to F, they sought nine reliefs among which were for them to be reinstated and paid in full all their salaries and emoluments having been wrongfully disengaged.
After listening to the submissions of the claimants’ counsels, CC Okere, MO Uzoma and PU Ogbunka for the defendants, the presiding judge, Justice Ibrahim Suleiman Galadima, held that by disengaging the workers they way it did, Abia State Government infringed on their fundamental human rights.
‘There is no denying that these surviving Claimants are all citizens of this country bound by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Some of them may have been born in the State of Abia, married to a spouse from that State, lived all their lives there and thus gained sufficient reasons to be deemed indigenes of the State or simply relocated from another State in order to achieve their dreams of a better life.
‘In its purely legal sense, therefore, this Court finds that the use of the word “non-indigene” on any public document made by any Government or authority is indeed unconstitutional and violates the provisions of Section 42 of the Constitution as far as it portends to discriminate against certain persons not recognized or who do not belong to certain ethnic groups or place of origin within the State concerned, from being gainfully employed in that State or in its public service, and I so declare,’ the judge asserted.
Ruling on the matter further, Justice Galadima said: ‘It is encouraging to know that any reasonable Government will be able to look beyond parochial sentiments and encourage the unity of its people under her regardless of where they came from. The unity of this country is non-negotiable or optional after all. Therefore, the circular which was issued on 25/8/2011 was done illegally and the said directive is hereby quashed as same was indeed null and void.’
The Judge did not see any reason to deny the claimants the reliefs sought, ruling: ‘Therefore, reliefs I to IX are hereby granted as sought, and I so hold. So, for the avoidance of any doubts, these Claimants’ action succeeds, and the entire reliefs sought are hereby granted.’