The Presiding Judge, Akure Judicial Division of the National Industrial Court, Hon. Justice Kiyersohot Damulak has nullified the suspension and removal of Barrister Babasoji Awe as a General Manager of Ekiti State Housing Corporation by the State Head of Civil Service, and ordered payment of his Salaries from September 2019 to December 2019.
The Court also set aside the Resolution of Ekiti State House of Assembly dated 17th August 2021 that Barrister Awe and others should refund N5,462,671.00 (Five Million, Four Hundred and Sixty-Two Thousand, Six Hundred and Seventy-One Naira only) for being contrary to law and equity.
However, Justice Damulak held that the appointment of Barrister Awe as GM by law was for a period of three years which elapsed on 26th December 2019 before he brought the case to the Court, and the court cannot reinstate him as that will amount to the court re-appointing the claimant which the court has no jurisdiction to do so.
From facts, the claimant- Barrister Babasoji Awe had submitted that he was employed into Ekiti State Public Service as a State Counsel in 2006 and rose to Grade Level 15 officer and General Manager in Ekiti State Housing Corporation.
He was queried on an allegation of misconduct and he was suspended on the 3rd September 2019 by the State Head of Civil Service who has no disciplinary control over him.
He averred further that the State Head of Civil Service on 13th May 2020 directed him to report to the Ministry of Justice and his 8 months’ salary would be used to defray part of the alleged lost fund, and the Head of Service technically stripped him of his status as General Manager and demoted him from a consolidated salary structure to Level 15 officer in the Ministry.
In defense, the defendants- The government of Ekiti State and 4 others maintained that the Head of Civil Service Ekiti State acted lawfully and that Barrister Awe was given every opportunity to defend himself on the allegation of unethical conduct.
Learned counsel to the State Government submitted that the letter of Barrister Awe’s demotion which does not indicate the approval of the governor is of no moment as there is a presumption of regularity in favour of such an official letter that the approval of the Governor was gotten before the letter was issued.
In opposition, the Claimant’s counsel, R. O. Muraina Esq maintained that the actions of the Head of Civil Service Ekiti State, Auditor General of Ekiti State and House of Assembly were done in bad faith and wrong in law, equity and good conscience. That the Certified true Copies of the External Audit Reports from 2014-2018 admitted in evidence show clearly that the accounts of the Ekiti State Housing Corporation during Barrister Awe’s tenure as General Manager, did not record any loss as maliciously alleged by the Defendants, and urged the court to grant the reliefs sought in the interest of justice.
Delivering judgment after careful evaluation of the submission of both parties, the presiding Judge, Justice Kiyersohot Damulak held that Barrister Awe has established by evidence and law that the Head of Civil Service Ekiti State, Auditor General of Ekiti State acted unlawfully and in bad faith against him, as the content of the suspension letter did not in any way purport or suggest conveyance of any approval or decision of any other authority other than the writer, Head of Service.
The Court ruled that the Ekiti State Head of Civil Service acted in his personal capacity and was not conveying the approval or decision of anybody or authority in suspending Barrister Awe, and there is no justification for any presumption of regularity.
Justice Damulak further held that Barrister Awe has established by evidence and law that the Head of Civil Service Ekiti State and Auditor General of Ekiti State acted unlawfully and in bad faith against him, and the punishment meted on him (Awe) and his removal by the State Civil Service is unlawful, null and void.