Industrial Court Converts dismissal of Police officer, Dsp Augustine Edem to Retirement
The Presiding Judge, Calabar Judicial Division of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria, His Lordship, Hon. Justice Maureen Esowe has set aside Inspector General of letter of suspension, interdiction issued on 13th March, 1991 and any purported dismissal of a police officer Dsp Augustine Edem from the Nigeria Police Force, ordered that same be commuted to retirement forthwith with full benefits.
The court declared that the query to the Augustine dated 25th July 1991 issued and signed by Deputy Commissioner of Police for the Assistant Inspector General of Police Zone 6, Calabar, or any such query that may have been so issued was in contravention of the Civil Service Rules, the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Police Act or any other rules or regulations in force in Nigeria for the discipline of police officers and therefore null and void and of no legal effect whatsoever.
According to the Claimant, he was enlisted into the Nigeria Police Force in 1973 and rose to the position of Deputy Superintendent and was Officer-in-charge of the Police Station in Akwa Ibom State. On the allegation that he took a bribe of N1000.00 (One Thousand Naira) from one complainant, he was suspended/interdicted on or about 13th March, 1991 before a query was served on him 25th July 1991 without pay.
Further that his suspension which started in 1991 did not abate and on replying to the letter of his lawyers on the matter, he heard, for the first time, from the Defendants that he has since been dismissed from the Nigeria Police Force.
However, the Inspector General of Police, Assistant Inspector-General of Police Zone 6 Calabar and the Commissioner of Police, Akwa Ibom State in their defence stated that theft of palm fruits was reported to the Claimant. At the same period, one Joe also reported a case to the Claimant, rather than investigate the allegations demanded bribe from the Complainants.
On the 1st of March, 1991, one of the Complainants led a team of detectives from the office of the Assistant Inspector-General of Police to the Claimant’s station. The detectives were stationed at the counter when the complainant went in and paid the bribe of N1000.00 (One Thousand Naira) demanded by the Claimant, came to the counter and led the detectives into the office of the Claimant where he was searched and the money recovered.
The Claimant was reported to the AIG Calabar and was issued a query, placed on interdiction/suspension before he was finally dismissed by the 6th Defendant urged the court to dismiss the case for being frivolous.
Delivering Judgment, the presiding Judge, Justice Esowe held that a suspension coming before a query is, putting the cart before the horse.
“If the investigation had not been concluded, on what basis was the arrest in the first place. It is the same attitude that played out in the case of the Claimant herein in that instead of the Defendants to issue a query to the Claimant and if not satisfied place him on suspension pending investigation, they first placed him on suspension pending a query letter.
“I have said it before and I will say it again – no man should use the instrument of suspension to terminate or dismiss an employee from his employment. Suspension from work is not dismissal or termination from work – they can never be the same because they are not.
“Furthermore, from the evidence before me, there is no scintilla of evidence that the Claimant was dismissed from the services of the Nigerian Police Force at any time; no evidence that investigation was concluded and at the end of such investigation, there was orderly room trial or the Claimant; and/or that at the end of the orderly room trial, Claimant was found guilty and dismissed from the Police Force.
“However, from the face of the pleadings of the Claimant, it is evident that he was enlisted into the Nigerian Police force in 1973. From my calculation, by 2008, if not for the alleged suspension, he would have put in 35 years of service and retired accordingly. In this light, this Court as a Court of law, equity and justice cannot make any order beyond 2008 when the Claimant would have retired from active services.”
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