Court reinstates Prof. Tomunomi as Rector Federal Polytechnic Bonny
Hon. Justice Polycarp Hamman of the National Industrial Court, Portharcourt Judicial division has nullified the purported suspension of Prof. Tomunomi Abbey from office for being inconsistent with the Federal Polytechnics Act and ordered his reinstatement to his lawful duty as the Rector of Federal Polytechnic of Oil and Gas Bonny, Rivers State.
The Court declared that by virtue of the Federal Polytechnics Amendment Act, 2019, the Governing Council of the Federal Polytechnic of Oil and Gas Bonny has no power whatsoever in the suspension or any other form of discipline of Prof. Tomunomi except the President of Nigeria.
Justice Hamman further granted an order restraining the Federal Polytechnic of Oil and Gas Bonny and Governing Council from preventing Prof. Tomunomi from carrying out his lawful functions as the Rector of the Institution.
From facts, the claimant- Prof. Tomunomi Abbey had submitted that he was appointed as the Rector by the Minister of Education in 2018 on the authority and approval of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in tandem with the Federal Polytechnics Act.
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He argued that the Polytechnic Governing Council acted ultra vires and he was not afforded a fair hearing before his suspension.
In defense, the defendants- Federal Polytechnic of Oil and Gas Bonny and its Governing Council contended that the issuance of the query to Prof. Tomunomi and his subsequent suspension from office were all carried out in the best interest of the Polytechnic, and based on the directive given to the Governing Council by the Minister of Education.
The Governing council further maintained that Prof. Tomunomi’s employment has not been terminated, the claimant was only suspended without salary pending the outcome of the investigation, and he has not shown any breach of his acclaimed rights, urged the court to dismiss the claim in its entirety.
In opposition, the claimant counsel argued that so far as the president has not approved the suspension or removal of the Rector, his office remains intact, and any purported acting appointment made by the Governing Council is null and void, urged the court to grant the reliefs sought.
Delivering the judgment after careful analysis of the submission of both parties, the presiding Judge, Justice Polycarp Hamman held that the Governing Council acted ultra vires its powers in suspending Prof. Tomunomi from the office and affirmed that the office of the Rector is tenured and regulated by statute, and cannot be tampered with unless as provided in the statute creating the office.
Justice Hamman stated that there is no indication in the letter of suspension issued to Prof. Tomunomi to indicate that the Chairman of the Polytechnic acted on the authority or instructions of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria or even the Honourable Minister of Education.
The Court ruled that the Federal Polytechnic of Oil and Gas Bonny and it’s Governing Council assertion that their action was based on the directive of the Hon. Minister of Education failed to produce such instruction or directive before the court.
“The Defendants are hereby restrained from using the Nigeria Police, the DSS, and other security agencies to harass the claimant or from confiscating any of the properties of the 1st Defendant entrusted to his care by virtue of his position as the Rector of the 1st Defendant.” The Court ruled.