Court Nullifies Suspension of  College Provost

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 Justice Maureen Esowe of the National Industrial Court on on Tuesday in Abuja declared the suspension of Dr Paul Ajah, the Provost of the College of Agriculture, Ishiagu, Ebonyi State, null and void.

Esowe also ordered the defendants to pay in full the complainant’s outstanding salaries and emoluments.

She nullified the suspension on the grounds that the defendants did not follow due process stipulated in the Industrial Act 2006 of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Ajah had been given a five-year contract as Provost of the college from 2009 to 2013 ending, but his appointment was suspended in a letter dated March 19, 2013.

The said letter was signed by the first defendant (Prof. B. Abubakar) allegedly on the instruction of the third defendant (The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development).

Following the receipt of the letter, Ajah instituted the suit for unlawful disengagement from duty by his employer, the College of Agriculture and three other defendants in 2013.

The defendants had argued that their reason for the suspension was based on the alleged criminal investigation of the claimant by EFCC.

Justice Esowe, in her judgment, said that the minister had no vested power to suspend a staff whose service was hired by the
President as indicated in the appointment letter.

“The minister is not vested with power to sack or suspend a staff, who the President hired, he can only recommend for removal.

“Moreover the suspension letter that was given to him did not stipulate that his salary and emolument had ceased,” she said.

Reacting to the judgment Ajah’s counsels, Mr Solo Akuma (SAN) and Miss Uchenna Ogonedo, told NAN that they are happy with the “fair” judgement.
“We are happy for the erudite judgment of her Lordship; it will encourage employees to come to court for justice than taking the law into their hands,” they said.
The counsels to the defendants, Mr Shehu Aliyu and John Madaki, said they had accepted the judgment in good fate.
“We will get back to our clients,” they said.

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