The National Industrial Court, Abuja on 31st of March 2023 in the judgment delivered by Justice Ayodele Obaseki Osaghae has ordered the immediate reinstatement of Mrs. Victoria Ayantuga, an Assistant General Manager at the Nigerian Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) who was wrongfully dismissed from the organisation. Mrs. Ayantuga and some of her colleagues were unlawfully suspended and their employment terminated from NSITF in June 1st 2021 on the pages of newspapers.
This unlawful suspension and dismissal of Mrs Ayantuga from her position at NSITF sparked a lengthy legal battle that finally ended in her favor. The court in the judgment declared that by the provisions of Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund Act, and Staff Conditions of Service the action of NSITF Management Board and former Minister of Labor & Employment, Chris Ngige in dismissing the staff as “unlawful, illegal, null and void, and of no effect whatsoever. It is hereby set aside.
The Court made the order in a suit marked NICN/ABJ/223/2021instituted on August 27th 2021 by Mrs Ayantuga to challenge her dismissal from the Federal government agency. Justice Obaseki in her ruling stated that, it is pertinent to state that the facts deposed to by the claimant in the supporting affidavit to the originating summons are unchallenged by the defendants therefore it is accepted, correct and acted on by the court.
Based on the fact and evidence presented before the court, on March 31st, 2023, the court issued a comprehensive judgment that left no room for ambiguity.
The court ordered her immediate reinstatement and the payment of all outstanding salaries, increments, and allowances dating back to her suspension in July 2020.
The court’s judgment, as detailed in the official judgment document available on the National Industrial Court of Nigeria’s website, includes several key declarations, some of which are:
-Employment status: The court declared that Mrs. Ayantuga’s employment with the NSITF is still valid and she is entitled to all her remuneration and entitlements from the organisation.
-Immediate Reinstatement: The court hereby declared and ordered immediate reinstatement of Mrs Victoria Ayantuga into the service of Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund, specifically to place her on the appropriate rank/grade level she would have been but for the wrongful dismissal with all the rights and privileges she is entitled to, and with no loss of seniority, rank, or grade level. The defendants were further ordered to place the claimant in the position of Deputy General Manager she would have been but for the interruption created by NSITF when her employment was illegally terminated.
-Payment of Salaries and Allowances: NSITF was mandated to immediately pay Mrs. Ayantuga all her outstanding salaries, increments, and allowances from the date of her suspension in July 2020 until the date of execution of this order.
-Costs Awarded: In addition to the above, the court ordered the payment of costs of action amounting to N500,000.00 in favour of Mrs. Ayantuga.
Our investigation into this matter through FOI revealed that since 31st of March, several letters were written to the Management Board Executive of NSITF by Counsel to the claimant to comply with court order but no response from the organisation.
The current Minister of Labor & Employment, Rt. Honourable Simon Lalong immediately swings into action on his assumption of office to uphold the tenet of law. In his intervention on 21st of August directed NSITF Managing Director Mrs Maureen Alagoa through the Ag. Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Labour,Mrs Julianah Adebambo to comply with Court order. The Minister stated that one of the eight point agenda of the administration of President Ahmed Tinubu is adherence to the rule of law, therefore no organisation under him would be allowed to disregard court order or any government institution established by law. According to the Minister this is an era of renewed hope where justice must be seen to be served.
The staff was recalled back on 10th of October 2023 but complete reinstatement to her position, payment of outstanding salaries, the no loss of rank and seniority, payment of cost of action not yet effected. The legal representatives have written letters to the appropriate offices so as to fully comply with the court order and Minister’s directives.
The National Industrial Court of Nigeria in one of the ruling sited on the website of the court reads “it is against the international best practice as well as international labour standard to lay off a performing staff without justifiable reasons. At global level, termination of employment at will and without reason is no longer fashionable or acceptable”. The staff, Mrs Ayantuga a Certified accountant and a Certified Public Sector Auditor got a special promotion for hard work, dedication to duty, display of professionalism and blocking unnecessary leakages and loss of fund thereby saving monies for the organisation. Such a staff was wrongfully dismissed but court the last hope of the masses rule in her favour.
For more details on this case, you can reference the official judgment on National Industrial Court of Nigeria website… https://nicnadr.gov.ng/judgement/details.php?id=7804