From Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The National Industrial Court will on Thursday resume proceedings in a N50 million suit filed against the Finance Minister, Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and others by a female staff of the ministry over an alleged unlawful salary seizure.
A senior staff of the Budget Office of the Federation, Mrs Bilkisu Okenne Sannusi in the suit alleged abuse of governmental powers to illegally and unlawfully withhold her salaries and entitlement for daring to expose corrupt practice being perpetuated in the Budget Office of the Federation (BoF).
When the case came up yesterday, counsel to 2nd and 3rd defendants sought an order of the court to amend the joint statement of defences for his clients.
Counsel to claimant in response noted that in October 31, when the matter came up, the court had adjourned the matter to 7 and 8 for hearing.
He, therefore expressed shock that the counsel to 2nd and 3rd defendant had taken this route of fresh application without due notice to enable him file a reply.
The claimant ‘s lawyer argued that it was a deliberate ploy by the defendants to frustrate the speedy hearing of the matter. Citing order 6 of the rules of the National Industrial Court, the claimant’s counsel said there are only two opportunities for amendment of the statement of defence, and in this case has been used.
The claimant counsel who however did not object the application for seeking order to amend joint statement, but however apply for a short adjournment to allow him file a reply.
The court subsequently adjourned to Thursday 8, December for a definite hearing .
Also joined in the suit marked NICN/ABJ/ 96/2022 as defendants are, the Head of Service of the Federation, Director General, Budget Office of the Federation and Accountant General of the Federation.
Justice Oyebiola Oyewumi had last sitting ordered parties to file all necessary papers before December 7 and 8 fixed for definite hearing in the case.
The claimant had in her statements of Facts alleged that she discovered monumental corrupt practices by some staff of the Ministry of Finance (3rd Defendant) in the office of the Director General, Budget Office of the Federation (2nd Defendant), while head of service is 1st defendant.
She claimed that the corrupt practice bothers on manipulation of budget proposals by MDAs, which she reported to the Director General and also alleged further that the 2nd Defendant, being her immediate boss, was complicit in the alleged acts.
Following open aggression against her person, the plaintiff said that she reported the matter to the Head of Service of the Federation (1st defendant) and the Ministry of Finance (3rd defendant) who also allegedly sailed in the same boat with the 2nd defendant.
The claimant averred that the issue led to the removal of her name from payments vouchers in addition to other efforts to frustrate her.
She alleged further that the 2nd defendant also without any justification caused her Secret and Open Files domiciled with the Budget Office of the Federation Registry to be removed and kept in an unknown place to frustrate her from proceeding on her retirement.
The claimant alleged that the 2nd defendant, in a bid to frustrate her, also instructed his allies in the Finance department to withhold and deny her due financial and maternal benefits and rights incidental to her employment and office in the Budget Office of the Federation.
The claimant therefore wants the court to declare that, “The termination of the Claimant’s salaries and entitlements prior and from the 26th November, 2021 till date by the 1st, 2nd 3rd and 5th defendant is illegal, unlawful and a gross abuse of governmental powers as such null and void and of no effect.
“That with-holding of the Claimant’s Secret and Open Files and fringe benefits, bonuses and Christmas, Easter and Sallah gifts and all other benefits howsoever called incidental to her position as a staff of the Budget Office of the Federation by the 2nd Defendant 1st is illegal, unlawful and a gross abuse of governmental powers as such, null and void and of no effect.
“That the 1st defendant lacks the power to impose punishment or suspension of salary on the Claimant safe as stipulated by the Public Service Rule which Rule must be adhered to as expressly stipulated as doing otherwise amounts to a nullity.
She also seeks an order of court “Compelling the defendants to pay the Claimant all her salaries, Entitlements, fringe benefits, bonuses and all benefits however called incidental to her position as a staff of the Budget Office of the Federation withheld by the defendants illegally and unlawfully amounting to N2, 214, 250 only.
“An order, compelling the 2nd defendant to forthwith release the Claimant’s Secret and Open File to enable her proceed with the processing of her retirement
“The sum of N50 Million only as exemplary damages in favour of the Claimant against the defendants having acted in bad faith against her”