IN THE NATIONAL INDUSTRIAL COURT OF NIGERIA
IN THE ENUGU JUDICIAL DIVISION
HOLDEN AT ENUGU
BEFORE HIS LORDSHIP: HON. JUSTICE O.O. AROWOSEGBE
DATE: FIRDAY 20TH SEPTEMBER 2019
1. THE REGISTRAR (ENUGU STATE COLLEGE OF EDUCATION (TECHNICAL) ENUGU
2. ENUGU STATE COLLEGE OF EDUCATION (TECHNICAL) ENUGU
3. WEST AFRICAN EXAMINATION COUNCIL
2. BEN OLOKO FOR THE 1ST AND 2ND DEFENDANTS.
3. CHIEF C.C. OGBO FOR THE 3RD DEFENDANT WITH J.N. EDOCHIE AND DR. CHARLES ADUAKA FOR 3RD DEFENDANT.
This suit was commenced by way of an application for judicial review on 15th May 2014. Subsequently, on 19th February 2016, the Court ordered parties to file pleadings. The Statement of Facts was filed on 15th March 2016. In paragraph 25 of the Statement of Facts, the claimant claimed the following reliefs:
(i) DECLARATION that the 1st & 2nd Defendants’ dismissal of the Claimant from employment on the basis of an alleged offence of forgery of General Certificate of Education, December, 1985 certificate issued by the 3rd Defendant when he has neither been investigated nor convicted over forgery of the said certificate is wrongful and violation of Claimant’s right to fair hearing guaranteed under section 36 of the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).
(ii) DECLARATION that Claimant’s General Certificate of Education certificate, 1985 was duly and regularly issued by the 3rd Defendant after the Claimant registered, sat and passed the examination.
(iii) AN ORDER setting aside or quashing the letter of dismissal dated 17th February, 2014 issued by the 1st and 2nd Defendants wherein the Claimant was dismissed from employment.
(iv) AN ORDER re-instating the Claimant into the employment of the 2nd Defendant.
(v) AN ORDER paying the Claimant of all salaries, allowances and entitlements denied him on account of the purported dismissal from employment.
(vi) N10,000,000.00 (Ten Million naira only) payable by the 1st and 2nd Defendants on the footing of exemplary and general damages for wrongful dismissal.
In reaction to the above, the 3rd defendant filed its Statement of Defence on 18th July 2016. The 1st and 2nd defendants filed a Joint Statement of Defence on 11th April 2017. The claimant filed no reply pleadings. The summaries of the pleadings filed by the parties are as stated below.
SUMMARY OF THE PLEADINGS
A. Statement of Facts
The claimant pleaded that he was a public servant employed by the 2nd defendant in 2007 on the basis of Result Slip of the General Certificate of Education issued by the 3rd defendant; and that, his employment was subsequently confirmed by a letter dated 12/1/10. The claimant pleaded further that, by a letter dated 23/12/2013, the 2nd defendant informed him that his result slip could not be traced during the verification exercise conducted on it; and that, consequent to this, the claimant obtained his original certificate from the 3rd defendant and submitted same to the 1st and 2nd defendants on 23rd January 2014. The claimant pleaded that he was surprised that, in spite of the submission of the original certificate to the 1st and 2nd defendants, they went ahead to dismiss him for forgery of the same certificate. The claimant pleaded that, he protested the dismissal vide a letter dated 24/2/2014 addressed to the 1st defendant, requesting re-investigation of the saga, which the 2nd defendant conducted and the 3rd defendant confirmed the said certificate vide letter to the 2nd defendant dated 17/7/2014. The claimant pleaded too that, he made his solicitor to write requesting for the confirmation of the same certificate from the 3rd defendant and that, the 3rd defendant replied and confirmed the said certificate vides letter dated 2/3/2015.
The claimant pleaded that, not yet satisfied, the 1st defendant vide a letter dated 24/7/15 to the claimant’s counsel said the confirmation of result of the claimant was false; and that latter, the 3rd defendant in its letter of 31/7/15 addressed to his solicitor, asked him to come with the official receipts, the copy of the result issued the claimant and other documents listed in the said letter. The claimant pleaded that, his counsel replied this letter and stated that, the 3rd defendant is in conspiracy with some people for sinister motive against the claimant. The claimant further pleaded that procedure adopted to accuse him of forgery was totally wrong, wherefore the claimant brought this suit and the consequential reliefs sought. That ends the Statement of Facts. I proceed to the defences of the defendants.
B. 3rd Defendant’s Statement of Defence
Apart from admitting some paragraphs of the Statement of Facts and putting the claimant to the strictest proof of some, the 3rd defendant posed the following defence in its Statement of Defence. It pleaded that, contrary to the contentions of the claimant in his paragraphs 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12 it never issued any General Certificate of Education 1985 with Examination No. 14710114 to the claimant, never wrote to confirm the result to the 2nd defendant as alleged and never received any letter from the claimant’s solicitor dated 26/2/2015 or 26/2/2014 nor wrote any letter to the claimant’s solicitor dated 2/3/2015 to confirm the said result and that, the letter was a forgery. The 3rd defendant also pleaded in counteraction to paragraphs 13 and 14 of the claimant that, it never wrote any letter dated 18/5/2015 to the claimant’s solicitor requesting for any document as alleged and never received any reply dated 25/5/2015 from the said solicitor nor wrote any letter to the claimant’s solicitor dated 2/6/2015. Counteracting paragraphs 17 and 18 of the claimant, the 3rd defendant pleaded that, it never wrote any letter to the claimant’s solicitor dated 31/7/2015 and did not receive from the solicitor any letter dated 12/8/2015. Counteracting paragraphs 19, 20, 21 of the Statement of Facts, the 3rd defendant pleaded that, the claimant did not register for the December 1985 GCE and did not sit for the exam. That is all about the 3rd defendant’s Statement of Defence. I move to that of the 1st and 2nd defendants. They filed a Joint Statement of Defence.
C. 1st and 2nd Defendants’ Joint Statement of Defence
The 2nd and 3rd defendant admitted some paragraphs of the claimant and put the claimant to the proof of some. Thereafter, they pleaded that; the 3rd defendant could not trace the GCE O/L 1985 Result Slip submitted by the claimant when they carried out certificate verification exercise. They pleaded that, the claimant was communicated and given opportunity to prove the genuineness of the result but he failed It was also pleaded that, the 3rd defendant stated, it did not issue the result presented by the claimant and, also told the Chairman of the 2nd defendant that, the purported confirmation letter presented by the claimant was forged. They denied receipt of any letter of confirmation of result by the 3rd defendant and from the claimant dated 17/7/2014. They also pleaded that; the purported confirmation letter was mutilated. They pleaded that, in view of the fact that the claimant failed to establish the genuineness of the certificate presented, he was rightly dismissed in accordance with the 2nd defendant’s conditions of service. They also pleaded that, the purported confirmation from the 3rd defendant, apart from being forged, was made for the purpose of this suit.
That is all about the defences filed by the three defendants. There being no reply pleadings filed by the claimant, I move to the proceedings of the Court.
The case came up first before His Lordship, Hon. Justice A. Ibrahim on 26th September 2014. When the suit came up on 8th December 2014, the 3rd defendant’s defence processes against the application for judicial review were deemed as properly filed and served. On this date too, the notice of preliminary objection filed by the 3rd defendant was struck out on the application of its counsel. The Court also ordered the counsel to the parties to address it on the propriety of commencing the suit by way of judicial review. On 19th February 2016 the Court ordered the parties to file pleadings. On 13th February 2017 the Statement of Facts of the claimant was deemed properly filed and served. The 3rd defendant’ Statement of Defence and other defence processes were also deemed properly filed and served. On 20th February 2017, the notice of preliminary objection of the 3rd defendant was dismissed. On 4th April 2017 the 1st and 2nd defendants’ were granted 7 days to file their Statement of Defence. And this was filed on 11th April 2017 and the Court ordered default fee for the extra day to be paid before the next date.
The case was opened before His Lordship, A. Ibrahim on 17th May 2017. The claimant testified on behalf of himself as CW by adopting his deposition made 16/3/16. Thereafter, CW tendered an array of documents without objection on all except one, and those not objected were admitted as Exhibits C1 to C19 while ruling on the only objected one was adjourned to the following day. On the 18th May 2017, the objection was upheld and the document marked rejected; and the evidence-in-chief of CW was brought to an end. The case thereafter proceeded to cross-examination by the learned counsel for the 1st and 2nd defendants. The case came up next on 9th November 2017. The learned counsel to the 1st and 2nd defendants continued the cross-examination and concluded it the same date; and the learned counsel to the 3rd defendant took over and also concluded his cross-examination the same day. Thereafter, the case of the claimant was closed without re-examination.
The case came up again on 15th December 2017 and the defence opened with DW1 for the 1st and 2nd defendants. DW1 took oath on the Holy Bible and adopted his Statement on Oath made 11th April 2017. Exhibit D1 was admitted without objection. Exhibit D2 was admitted after the objection was overruled. Exhibit D3 was admitted without objection; and the learned counsel to the 1st and 2nd defendants brought the testimony of DW1 to end. The matter proceeded to cross-examination immediately and the cross-examination was concluded without re-examination. The learned counsel to the 3rd defendant did not cross-examine the witness. The case of the 1st and 2nd defendants was closed thereafter. The matter came up next on 19th December 2017 and the 3rd defendant opened its defence with DW2. DW2 took oath on the Holy Bible and adopted his written deposition of 14/7/2016. DW2’s evidence-in-chief was brought to an end after this without tendering any document; and the matter thereafter proceeded to cross-examination by the learned counsel to the claimant. The cross-examination was brought to an end the same day without re-examination. Thereafter, the learned counsel to the 1st and 2nd defendants cross-examined DW2. Another document tendered under cross-examination by DW2 was again marked as Exhibit D3. After a few more questions, the cross-examination by the learned counsel to the 1st and 2nd defendants was brought to an end without re-examination. The defence of the 3rd defendant case was thereafter brought to an end and the case adjourned for adoption.
The case came up next on 16th February 2018. On this date the learned counsel to the 3rd defendant: CHIEF C.C. OGBO adopted the final written address of the 3rd defendant while BEN C. EZUGWU’s made an application to regularise the final written address of the 1st and 2nd defendants filed out time. Thereafter, the case was adjourned to 16th March 2018 for the learned counsel to the claimant, EZE NWAKEEZE to file reply on points of law. Unfortunately, the Court did not sit on this date. In the interval before the Court sat on the 20th February 2019, His Lordship: Hon. Justice A. Ibrahim had transited this world. On the 20th February 2019, the matter therefore came up before me for the first time. It was adjourned for the counsel to the parties to decide whether to adopt the proceedings before the previous judge. It came up on 9th April 2019 and on this date, the counsel to the three parties applied to the Court for leave to adopt the previous proceedings. This application was granted. The case was thereafter adjourned to June 25 2019 for adoption of the final written addresses.
It came up as adjourned. After exchanges with the Court and the learned counsel to the 1st and 2nd defendants and the 3rd defendant on application for adjournment to argue application for waiver of default fee, the learned counsel to the claimant: NWAKEEZE withdrew his application; and the Court ordered the learned counsel to the parties to proceed with adoption of the extant final written addresses before the Court. Then, CHIEF C.C. OGBO adopted both the final written address of the 3rd defendant and the reply on points of law. Thereafter, BEN OLOKO for the 1st and 2nd defendants adopted the final written address of the 1st and 2nd defendants dated 15/02/2018 and filed 16/02/2018. The learned counsel to the 1st and 2nd defendants adumbrated that all the documents tendered by the claimant were made in anticipation of this suit and therefore, caught by section 83 of the Evidence Act; and that, the objection that date on the written deposition of D3 was different from the one adopted in Court was of no moment, having been adopted, the defect was cured. Thus, ended the adumbration and the learned counsel to the claimant took his turn to adopt the final written address of the claimant dated 8th and filed 13th February 2018. The learned counsel adumbrated that the defendants did not produce another master list to contradict the one tendered by the claimant and that somebody from Enugu could not contradict what the headquarters in Lagos produced. The Court caught the learned counsel short for attempting to veer into reply on points of law instead of adumbration. The case was thereafter adjourned to 17th July 2019 for judgment.
The judgment was not ready on this date and it was adjourned sine die till its readiness when date would be communicated to the learned counsel to the parties. That is all about the proceedings at the Court. I shall now move to summarise the final written addresses of the parties. I take first that of the 3rd defendant, which was filed and adopted first.
SUMMARY OF THE FINAL WRITTEN ADDRESSES OF THE PARTIES
A. Final Written Address of the 3rd Defendant
CHIEF CHARLES OGBO franked the 3rd Defendant’s Final Written Address dated 8th and filed 10th January 2018. The learned for formulated a lone issue for the determination of the suit, to wit: “Whether…the claimant did not take the examination and was not issued with any certificate…” The learned counsel submitted that the 3rd defendant’s witness, who was the Senior Assistant Registrar and Head of Examination Department Enugu testified that, the claimant did not sit for the exam and was never issued with the result slip in issue [Exhibit C5]. The learned counsel referred to Exhibit D3. The learned counsel also submitted that, this witness testified further that, the 3rd defendant did not receive any letter from the counsel to the claimant and did not also write any response as claimed; and that, the letters were all forged [Exhibits C9-C19]. The learned counsel argued that, the Court should believe its witness because the claimant failed to tell the Court how he delivered the letters to the 3rd defendant and how the 3rd defendant delivered the responses to him, as none of these letters, was sent by post or courier. The learned counsel submitted that, it was not possible for WAEC to go round the 36 states of the federation to deliver letters by hand. The learned counsel argued that, the facts that two words ‘African’ and ‘Examination’ were misspelt on the Result Slip allegedly sent to the claimant showed that, it was forged, as WAEC, which had been in existence for 65 years, with a permanent letterhead, could not have misspelt its name.
The learned counsel argued that, the evidence of its witness was not shaken under cross-examination, and that, since the 3rd defendant is a corporate body, hence, has nothing to gain or lose in this suit to prompt it to mislead the Court. The learned counsel argued that, the evidence of the claimant is inconsistent in that, at paragraph 13 of his deposition, he deposed that the 3rd defendant by a letter dated 2/3/2015 confirmed his result and at paragraph 14 deposed that the same 3rd defendant wrote to his counsel requesting for all the documents used by the claimant in applying for the confirmation whereas, under cross-examination, the claimant admitted that, by the time exhibits C7-C16 were made, he was no longer a staff of the college and that, they were made to assist him in this case. The learned counsel submitted that, this proved that the claimant did massive forgery in desperation. Thus, the final written address of the 3rd defendant ended. I move to that of the 1st and 2nd defendants, though filed last but moved before that of the claimant in order to have full perspective of the defence addresses at one hand first before going to the claimant’s address.
B. Joint Final Written Address of the 1st and 2nd Defendants
CHIEF (SIR) BEN C. EZUGWU (KSJ) franked the Joint Final Written Address of the 1st and 2nd defendants. The learned counsel formulated three issues for the determination of the case. They are:
1. Whether the Claimant presented satisfactory GCE O/L 1985 Certificate in Verification and to authenticate the result G.C. E. O/L December 1985 [sic]. On the basis of which the Claimant was employed by the 2nd Defendant [sic].
2. Whether the 2nd Defendant as an employer, rightly terminated/dismissed the employment of the Claimant from employment [sic].
3. Whether by the pleadings and evidence of the parties, has the Claimant proved his claims and entitled to the reliefs sought [sic]
Under issue 1, the learned counsel submitted that, the claimant, who asserted that he had a genuine GCE O/L Result December 1985, had the duty to show that he had; and that, the claimant failed in this regard. The learned counsel argued that, the result of the Certificate Verification Exercise carried out by the Certificate Verification Committee of the 2nd showed that the claimant did not have a genuine certificate and that, thereafter the 2nd defendant gave the claimant another opportunity to prove that his result was genuine, which he failed to do hence, his dismissal from the employment of the 2nd defendant vides Exhibit C6. The learned counsel argued that the failure of the claimant in this regard was accentuated by the DW2, Head of Examination Certificate, who testified in paragraph 3 of his deposition that the claimant did not register for the 1985 GCE and was not therefore issued any result, notification or certificate. The learned counsel submitted that, since the claimant couldn’t produce any satisfactory certificate to verify the result presented, he has failed to discharge the burden on him. On this, the learned counsel cited Mbani v. Bose (2006) 26 NSCQR 583, and urged the Court to resolve this issue in their favour. Thus, ended arguments on issue 1 and the learned counsel moved to his issue 2.
Under issue 2, which is whether the 2nd defendant rightly terminated the appointment, the learned counsel was of the opinion that, since the fulcrum of the contract between the claimant and the 2nd defendant was that, the claimant had a genuine certificate, and this turned out to be false, the claimant was rightly dismissed. The learned counsel submitted that, an employer has the right to dismiss an employee and cited Dudusola v. Nig. Gas Co. Ltd (2013) 53 NSCQR (Pt. 3) 789 r. 7 and Eze v. Spring Bank Plc (2011) 48 NSCQR 125 to the effect that, once an employee commits gross misconducts verging on criminality, it is no longer the law that he be reported to the police or tried in court before he could be dismissed by the employer. The learned counsel submitted that, all the cases cited to the contrary by the claimant’s counsel were earlier authorities, which have been overridden by the Eze v. Spring Bank PLC. On the basis of this, the learned counsel urged the Court to discountenance the submissions of the learned counsel to the claimant; and resolve issue 2 in favour of the 1st and 2nd defendants. The learned counsel thereafter moved to his issue 3.
Under issue 3, which is whether the claimant proved his case and is entitled to the reliefs claimed, the learned counsel argued that, the claimant lied under cross-examination by denying the reason stated in the dismissal letter; and that, the testimonies of DW1 and 2 and exhibits C4, C6, D1 and D2 showed the claimant to be unworthy of credibility and urged the Court to reject his testimonies and accept those of the defence. The learned counsel thereafter urged the Court to resolve issue 3 in favour of the defence. This ended discussion on issue 3, which is the last issue formulated and ought to be the end of the final written address. However, the learned counsel went further to canvass arguments on what he titled “Wrongful Admission of Some Documents…” I move to this.
The learned counsel argued that Exhibits C7A, C8, C10, C11, C12, C13, C14, C15, and C16, were all wrongfully admitted because, they were all made in anticipation of this suit; as they were made after this suit had been instituted and therefore caught by section 83(3) of the Evidence Act. The learned counsel cited Samson Owie v. Ighiwi (2005) 21 NSCQR 207 ratio 14 at 234 B-E and Are v. Ipaye (1986) 3 NWLR (Pt. 29) to urge the Court to expunge them. Thus, the joint final written address of the 1st and 2nd defendant was ended. I shall now move to the final written address of the claimant.
C. Final Written Address of the Claimant
EZE NWAKEZE franked the claimant’s Final Written Address. The learned counsel formulated three issues, thus:
(i) Whether it is not erroneous in law for the 1st & 2nd Defendants to adjudge the Claimant’s December, 1985 G.C.E. certificate as fake and forged using same as plank for his dismissal when no complaint of forgery has been laid out let alone being investigated, tried, heard and convicted?
(ii) Whether in the overall facts and circumstances of this case, the determination of the claimant’s civil right without being heard did not render his dismissal null, void and of no effect?
(iii) Whether by the peculiar facts and circumstances of this case, the Defendants discharged the onus and or burden of proof placed on them by the law as to bring this Court to an irresistible conclusion that indeed, the Claimant’s 1985 G.C.E certificate was forged as alleged?
Issues 1 and 2 were argued together. The learned counsel submitted that it was wrong for the 1st and 2nd defendants to dismiss the claimant without being subjected to criminal investigation and prosecution first on an allegation of forgery of 1985 GCE Certificate. The learned counsel submitted that, the grouse of the claimant in the instant case is that his right to fair hearing was breached. The learned counsel argued that, the claimant’s case is that, he was not heard at all before being dismissed and that, the 1st and 2nd defendants usurped the functions of the Court by passing a verdict of forgery on him and thereby dismissing him. The learned counsel cited Sofekun v. Akinyemi (1980) 5-7 SC 1 at 137, Garba v. University of Maiduguri (1986) 1 NWLR (Pt. 18) 550 and a host of other cases on this. The learned counsel argued that, to satisfy the law, the allegations and evidence against the claimant ought to have been brought to his notice and the claimant given opportunity to challenge them. The learned counsel also submitted that, evidence ought not to be taken behind the claimant. The learned counsel submitted that, the 1st and 2nd defendants just followed the report of the Certificate Verification Committee to dismiss the claimant, as confirmed by the letter of dismissal [Exhibit C6].
The learned counsel submitted that, this procedural irregularity was confirmed under cross-examination when the witness to the 1st and 2nd defendants confirmed that he was not aware that any other committee was set up after the verification exercise and that, he was not the Chairman of the verification committee. The learned counsel submitted that; thus, the procedure was defective and the decision liable to be set aside. The learned counsel cited Otakpo v. Sunmonu (1987) 2 NWLR (Pt. 58) 687 to buttress his argument. There ended arguments on issues 1 and 2 and the learned counsel moved to issue 3.
Under issue 3, which is on discharge of burden of proof, the learned counsel argued that, the defendants failed to discharge the burden of proof on them; and that, an instance is that of the witness to the 3rd defendant, who claimed that he deposed to his witness statement on oath on 14/7/2016 while the one in the record of this Court was sworn on 18/07/2016. On this basis of this, the learned counsel submitted that, the witness adopted a non-existent written deposition and therefore had no evidence before the Court. The learned counsel relied on Order 3, Rule (a)-(d), Order 30, Rule 2(1)(a)-(e) of the NICN Rules. He equally cited Ishaq & Anor v. INEC & Ors (2008) LPELR CA/A/EP/25/08, section 184 of the Evidence Act and a host of other authorities. The learned counsel submitted further that, since no evidence has been led on the pleadings, the pleading is deemed abandoned; and cited some authorities on this. The learned counsel submitted that the final written address of the 3rd defendant is therefore of no moment, as address of counsel cannot substitute for lack of evidence. On this, the learned counsel cited Archibong v. Edak (2006) 7 NWLR (Pt. 980) 455 CA.
The learned counsel argued further that, since the defendants’ Statements of Defence are mainly on allegations of crimes, they ought to have proved these crimes beyond reasonable doubt; and they failed. The learned counsel cited Jalingo v. Nyame & 2 Ors (1992) 3 NWLR (Pt. 231) 538 at 546-547 and a host of other cases. The learned counsel also cited section 135(1) & (2) of the Evidence Act. The learned counsel submitted that, since the defendants raised the issue of forgery, they are bound to prove it beyond reasonable doubt. The learned counsel cited UBA PLC v. Osok [supra]. The learned counsel argued too that, the defendants failed to set out in their pleadings, the particulars of the forgery as required by law and did not adduce sufficient evidence in proof of this. The learned counsel argued further that, the evidence of the 1st and 2nd defendants’ witness is hearsay; and relied on section 132(1) of the Evidence Act and JSC v. Omo (1990) 6 NWLR (Pt. 157) 407 CA. The learned counsel submitted that, whatever the 3rd defendant told the 1st and 2nd defendants were hearsay since the 3rd defendant was not called as a witness.
The learned counsel further argued that, the 1st and 2nd defendants did not verify the certificate of the claimant as asserted since there is no evidence of correspondence on the issue between the 1st and 2nd defendants and the 3rd defendant presented to the Court. The learned counsel argued that, the claimant submitted his original certificate to the 1st and 2nd defendant; and that, the 1st and 2nd defendants did not adduce any evidence that they verified it. The learned counsel argued that, the document the witness of the 1st and 2nd defendants told the Court he went to Lagos to verify the claimant has denied ever presenting it to the 1st and 2nd defendants as a letter of confirmation from the 3rd defendant. The learned counsel submitted that, upon the denial, the learned counsel to the 1st and 2nd defendants withdrew it and later tendered it through their witness and admitted as Exhibit D2.
The learned later contended, in the alternative, on the 3rd defendant that, its failure to call forensic expert to prove the forgery is fatal to its testimony before the Court. The learned counsel submitted that, the failure of the 3rd defendant to tender another master list that contradicts that tendered by the claimant [Exhibits C9 & C15] is fatal to its case. The learned counsel submitted that, the 3rd defendant also omitted to tell the Court whose number 14710114, which links the claimant with his name on the master list tendered, is, if any other person than the claimant actually owned it. The learned counsel submitted that, this omission raised the presumption under section 167(d) of the Evidence Act that the evidence, if produced, would have been against the 3rd defendant, and cited Unilorin v. Adesina (2009) ALL FWLR (Pt. 487) 56 at 126-127, H-A. The learned counsel submitted that, the failure of the 3rd defendant to tender the master list to show the authentic person to which number 14710114, which its witness admitted existed in the record of the 3rd defendant, amounts to withholding evidence from the Court, and therefore fatal to its case.
The learned counsel submitted that evidence of the 3rd defendant was contradictory in that at one breadth, its witness said it was not the duty of the 3rd defendant to report the claimant to law enforcement agencies but at another breadth tendered Exhibit D3, which stated that the 3rd defendant ought to have charged the claimant for forgery; and that, as such, the witness should not be believed. The learned counsel cited Monoprix (Nig) Ltd v. Okenwa (1995) 3 NWLR (Pt. 383) 325 at 341, C. The learned counsel submitted that, as the claimant had led very credible evidence showing that the 3rd defendant regularly issued his original GCE certificate of December 1985, the Court should give the evidence the necessary probative value. In view of the above, the learned counsel urged the Court to grant the reliefs claimed and cited Savannah Bank Nig. Plc v. CBN & Ors. (2009) NWLR (Pt. 1139) 237, r. 23. The learned counsel cited Rooks v. Benards (1964) AC 1129 and Odiba & Ors v. Muemue & Ors (1989) SC 157 at 170-171 on the need to grant exemplary damages in addition to general damages. That ends the summary of the final written address of the 1st and 2nd defendants. I move to the reply address filed by the 3rd defendant.
D. 3rd Defendant’s Reply on Points of Law
CHIEF CHARLES OGBO also franked the 3rd defendant’s Reply on Points of Law. On the issue of the witness to the 3rd defendant adopting a non-existent written deposition, the learned counsel submitted that, the argument was totally false, as the 3rd defendant’s witness never sworn to any written deposition on 18th July 2016, as alleged and that, the only written deposition of the 3rd defendant’s witness is the one sworn on 14/7/2016. The learned counsel therefore submitted that, this contention of the learned counsel to the claimant be jettisoned. On the issues of allegations of forgery, the learned contended that, since the defence of the 3rd defendant was that the claimant did not write nor had any correspondence with it on the exam in issue, the issue of the person that forged the documents in issue had not arisen to require calling of forensic expert. On the issue of section 167(d) of the Evidence Act raised, that by not tendering the master list, the 3rd defendant is withholding evidence from Court, the learned counsel said the 3rd defendant told the Court clearly that the master list tendered by the claimant did not emanate from it and more so, the claimant never subpoenaed it to bring its master list. The learned counsel submitted further that, as the master list is a public document, and the defendant who never applied for a certified true copy of it could not turn round to accuse the 3rd defendant of withholding evidence.
The learned counsel submitted that there is no contradiction in the evidence of the witness to the 3rd defendant and that, the fact that the 3rd defendant stated that it ought to have been prosecuting the claimant does not mean it was its responsibility to do so. Thus, the reply address of the 3rd defendant was brought to an end. This marks end to the summaries of the final written addresses of all the parties. My next duty is to proceed to give my decision. In doing this, I wish to state that I have painstakingly studied all the processes connected with this case. I have studied the evidence on record and digested the pleadings and final written addresses of the parties and examined the principal authorities [statutory and cases] cited before giving my decisions. I take note of the fact that, I have not summarised the evidence on record; but like stated earlier on, I have painstakingly studied it. And shall make constant references to relevant portions to anchor my decision where the need arises.
Now, to my mind, it did not seem that the parties, especially the 1st and 2nd defendants’ issues quite capture the grouse of the claimant. I found that the issues formulated by the claimant and the 1st and 2nd defendants are verbose and did not cover the breadth of the issues. I found that the lone issue formulated by the 3rd defendant is apt but verbose too. I therefore propose to reframe these issues to shun them of their defects. I reformulate three issues from all the issues formulated by all the parties thus:
1. Whether the claimant was given fair hearing before his dismissal?
2. Was the dismissal of the claimant on criminal allegation of forgery in accordance with law?
3. If the answers to the foregoing are in the negative, whether the claimant is entitled to the reliefs claimed?
I take the three issues seriatim. Issue 1 is on whether the claimant was afforded fair hearing before his dismissal. It is a threshold issue and external to the facts of the case. It is all about procedure. What then is the proper procedure? The answer is determined by the pleadings of the parties, especially those of the claimant. The claimant planked his case mainly on denial of fair hearing and that the allegations against him were false. He did not allude to breach of terms and conditions of service. He did not plead nor tender the terms and conditions of his service while the 1st and 2nd defendants, who made allusion to the conditions of service, did not elaborate on these nor base any argument on same in their final written address. They just simply met the case presented by the claimant. Now, fair hearing has been imported into the decisions of all bodies, judicial or not, that are imbued with powers to make decisions that could affect the rights of citizens. Thus, it was held in National Judicial Council & Ors v. Aladejana (2014) LPELR-24134 (CA) 45, A-E:
“Section 36(1) of the Constitution of Nigeria provides as follows; ‘In the determination of his civil rights and obligation including any question or determination of his civil rights and obligation including any question or determination by or against any government or authority a person shall be entitled to fair hearing within a reasonable time by a Court or other tribunal established to secure its independence and impartiality”. The above gives constitutional teeth or flavour to the twin pillars of natural justice, viz; (1) Audi alterem partem and (ii) [sic] Nemo Judex in causa sua. The requirements apply not only to courts of law or Tribunals [sic] only but also to administrative bodies acting judicially in the determination or imposition of decisions that are likely to affect the civil rights and obligations of a person. Such bodies are bound to strictly observe the principles of fair hearing…’”
From the above authority, it appears certain that whether or not conditions of service were pleaded and tendered, the principles of fair hearing is still available to a claimant who is dismissed for a reason without fair hearing. It is akin to being dismissed for a reason not proved. Thus, where the claimant has shown that he was dismissed without observing fair hearing, the defendant has to disprove this by showing that the principles of fair hearing were observed in the dismissal. In this situation, dismissal must be distinguished from termination. As a dismissal is always with reason and with very adverse consequences on the accrued employment rights and future career of an employee; and for these reasons, fair hearing has always been imported. Now, what is the procedure to adopt to dismiss a staff where an allegations of crime is made against him? I cite Maliki v. Michael Imodu Institute for Labour Studies (2008) LPELR-8467 (CA) 41-47, C-B, where the Court of Appeal expatiated the issue thus:
“It is trite law that an employer does not need to wait for an employee against whom there is an allegation of misconduct bordering on crime to be prosecuted and convicted by a Court before he can exercise his power to dismiss such an employee summarily. It is enough if he is given such notice as would make the nature of the allegation(s) against him clear to him so as to enable him put in a defence…” [Underline provided for emphasis]
The above views were also shared in Ikuma v. Civil Service Commission Benue State & Ors (2012) LPELR-8621 (CA) 14, A-C. Now, let us look at the germane facts of this case vis-à-vis the above authorities. Two documents are directly relevant to the issue of fair hearing in the instant case. These are exhibits C4 titled “Re: Verification of Staff Certificates” and exhibit C6, titled “Letter of Dismissal”. I reproduce both verbatim for the sake of clarity. Exhibit C4 states that:
“ESCET/RGGPM/001/Vol 9/124 23rd December, 2013
Mr. Anike Augustine
Enugu State College of Education (Technical)
RE: VERIFICATION OF STAFF CERTIFICATES
Following the report of the Staff Certificate Verification Exercise, it was discovered that your 1985 WAEC Examination Result Slip, submitted to the College by you on the basis of your employment, could not be traced by the issuing examination body.
In view of the above, the College Management has directed that you be given thirty(30) [sic] days from date of this letter to forward to the College certificate for the examination result slip.
Dr. Mike Chidozie Onyia
Exhibit C6 provides thus:
“ESCET/RGGPM/001/Vol.9/XX 17th February, 2014
Mr. Anike Augustine
Enugu State College of Education (Technical)
LETTER OF DISMISSAL
Following the report of the Staff Certificate Verification Exercise, it was discovered that your December 1985 WAEC Certificate, submitted to the College by you on the basis of your employment was faked.
In view of the magnitude of the offence of certificate forgery and in line with the College’s Conditions of Service as well as the subsequent Management directive, you are hereby dismissed from the services of the College with immediate effect.
You are required to hand over the property of the College in your possession to your Head of Department.
Dr. Mike Chidozie Onyia
It is very obvious from the first letter [Exhibit C4] that no allegations at all were leveled against the claimant. It was also clear that he was not asked in the first letter to come and defend any allegations or make any explanation. This must be so when it is realised that no details were given as to why the 1985 WAEC Result Slip in issue could not be traced as to attach any knowledge of allegation of commission of an offence on the claimant. To clinch the fact that no allegations were made against the claimant in the first letter, the second paragraph of the letter went further simply to direct the claimant to furnish it with the certificate of the result slip within 30 days. Now, in dismissing the claimant via the second letter [Exhibit C6], a short while after the expiration of the 30 days ultimatum, the 1st and 2nd defendants now said it was discovered that the December 1985 WAEC Certificate submitted to the College by the claimant was ‘faked’; and that, in view of the magnitude of the offence of forgery, and in line with College’s conditions of service and Management directive, the claimant was dismissed.
From these, it is clear that the allegation of forgery was being made for the first time and that the claimant was not informed of this and asked to explain why disciplinary actions would not be taken against him before he was dismissed. Were it that the claimant was dismissed for not presenting the 1st and 2nd defendants with the certificate as demanded, different consideration might have ensued. Even at that, I am also not convinced that the 1st and 2nd defendants could just go ahead without leveling any allegation against the claimant to dismiss him for not presenting the certificate within the ultimatum. In any way, that is not the issue now. The issue, as admitted in the letter of dismissal, is that the claimant presented the certificate but the 1st and 2nd defendants’ Verification Report said it was forged and based on this, the claimant was dismissed without further ado.
Now, the alleged fresh discovery of forgery on the certificate is an entirely new discovery totally divorced from the initial statement in the first letter that the result slip could not be traced in the coffers of the 3rd defendant. It follows that, the 1st and 2nd defendants must communicate their new discovery to the claimant and ask for his defence before he could be dismissed on such allegation. But what happened was that the dismissal was based on the alleged discovery of forgery without asking for any explanation from the claimant. It follows that, apart from not informing the claimant of the allegation against him before he was dismissed, the details of the alleged forgery were not even contained in the letter of dismissal. That is, up till now, the details of why and how the said certificate was forged, is not known to the claimant. The Supreme Court has restated the law as enunciated by the Court of Appeal in Maliki v. Michael Imodu Institute for Labour Studies [supra] in Imonikhe v. Unity Bank PLC (2011) LPELR-1503 (SC) 36, D-E:
“Accusing an employee of misconduct, etc by way of a query and allowing the employee to answer the query, and the employee answers it before a decision is taken satisfies the requirements of fair hearing or natural justice”
The above decision has been reiterated by the Supreme Court in Arinze v. First Bank (2004) LPELR-551 (SC) 11, A-E; Ziideeh v. Rivers State Civil Service Commission (2007) LPELR-3544 (SC) 28-29, F-A and Oloruntoba-Oju & Ors v. Abdul-Raheem & Ors (2009) LPELR-2596 (SC) 62, A-C. The above decisions made it abundantly clear that the principles of fair hearing or natural justice are applicable to both master-servant relations and statutory employments. In the case at hand, and from the facts presented above, it is abundantly clear that the claimant herein was not even informed of the allegation of forgery before he was summarily dismissed on the allegation. The 1st and 2nd defendants have not been able to show that the claimant was issued a query or even notified of the allegation of forgery for which he was dismissed. So, all the arguments and authorities cited by the 1st and 2nd defendants’ counsel were cited off marks due to misapprehension of the real question to determine with regard to denial of fair hearing. It is therefore as clear as daylight that the dismissal in the instant case offends the principles of fair hearing; and I so hold. It flows from this that issue 1 is resolved in favour of the claimant and against the 1st and 2nd defendants. This ought to mark the end of the case, but I would proceed to examine the succeeding issue, in case the Court of Appeal declares my view on this issue wrong. I therefore move to issue 2.
Issue 2 raises the issue of whether the dismissal of the claimant on criminal allegation of forgery was in accordance with law. This issue raises two questions: whether the proper procedure was followed where allegation of crime is the basis of dismissal and the second, which is whether the allegation was proved, even if the proper procedure was followed. This Court has had the opportunity to consider the locus classicus: Dongtoe v. CSC, Plateau State (2001) LPELR-959 (SC) 34-35, E-G and other connected authorities: Eigbe v. N.U.T. (2008) 5 NWLR (Pt. 1081) 610 at 628 and Arinze v. FBN (2004) LPELR-551 (SC) on this in Suit No. NICN/OW/87/2016 - Enang Jimmy v. Glassforce Ltd (Unreported judgment delivered 12th July 2019) p. 21, last paragraph, where this Court held, and I quote:
“I think the litmus tests are the existence of incontrovertible evidence of guilt and the existence of other non-criminal ground of misconduct. Where there is none, and the allegation is purely criminal and proof of same needs to be established, the court is the forum and Dongtoe v. CSC, Plateau State remains the authority. I therefore have no reason to depart from the above ratio of this Court. It is against the above settled authorities that the evidence on record shall be tested to know where the pendulum swings.”
Now, the first pieces of relevant evidence on record are Exhibits C4, C6 [supra] and D2, titled “Confirmation of Result” dated 03/03/2014. Now the claimant pleaded in paragraphs 6 and 7 of the Statement of Facts that after he was communicated that his result slip could not be traced with the 3rd defendant, and asked to produce the certificate for the result slip, he approached the 3rd defendant, obtained the original certificate for GCE 1985 with Examination No. 14710114 and submitted it to the 1st and 2nd defendants on 23rd January 2014. In reaction to this, the 1st and 2nd defendants pleaded in their paragraph 3 of their joint statement of defence that paragraphs 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 of the Statement of Facts were denied and the claimant put to their strictest proof. That is all that is said about the crucial paragraphs 6 and 7 of the Statement of Facts throughout the whole gamut of the Joint Statement of Defence of the 1st and 2nd Defendants. In as recent as 2014, the Supreme Court held in Union Bank of Nigeria PLC v. Chimaeze (2014) LPELR-22699 (SC) 48, A-B that: “A general traverse is not an effective denial of essential or material averments in the opposing party’s pleading…” This view, as affirmed by the Supreme Court above, was earlier stated by the Court of Appeal in same Union Bank Plc v. Chimaeze (2006) LPELR-11747 (CA) 12-13, E-D thus:
“A denial in a statement of defence that, ‘the Defendant denies a paragraph in the statement of defence and put the Plaintiff to the strictest proof thereof’ amounts to insufficient denial or insufficient traverse to put the matter thus denied in issue…If the Appellant had intended to make the sum of N250,000.00 solicitor’s fee an issue, it should have been specifically traversed and/or denied as it is with essential and material allegations in a statement of claim. There should be no general traverse in respect of essential and material allegations. They should be specifically traversed. It is trite law that mere general denials in pleadings are never sufficient traverse and amounts to no denials at all with end result that the particular pleaded fact remains unchallenged and only required minimal evidence or none at all to be admitted as proved by the trial Court.”
However, the 3rd defendant denied ever issuing the said original certificate with No. 14710114 to the claimant; thus, effectively denying and joining issue with the claimant on it. The claimant deposed to the facts that he got the original certificate from the 3rd defendant and presented it to the 1st and 2nd defendants in paragraphs 7 and 8 of his written deposition adopted in this Court on 17th May 2017. He tendered Exhibit C5. From the above scenario, it is clear that there is no admission of guilt by the claimant. There is equally no incontrovertible evidence that the certificate in issue was forged. The witness to the 3rd defendant denied that the certificate was issued to the claimant but left the question opened as to whether it was issued to another person; and if, whom that person is. He also left open the question whether the No. 14710114 on the certificate was allocated to any certificate issued out at all; and if, to which certificate issued out, was it assigned and what is the name on the certificate. With the scenario painted above, the question whether there is forgery proved against the claimant cannot be determined with a wave of the hand. The court therefore remains the venue of proof that there is forgery. What I have found is that with the allegations and counter allegations of forgery flying about in the case and the telltales signs on some of these documents, it is my considered opinion that, any serious-minded organisation, like the 2nd and 3rd defendants in this case, would have subjected the matter to thorough investigations and trial, at least, to unravel the truth behind the accusations of forgery against all the parties in the case and protect the sanctity of their institutions.
For, when the claimant said this certificate was issued to him by the 3rd defendant and denied ever forwarding Exhibit D2 to the 1st and 2nd defendants, the implication is that, he has also accused the defendants of forgery of this document. In any case, it should be noted that, this document is post-dismissal. The claimant was dismissed for forging the WAEC Certificate and not for forging confirmation certificate, which Exhibit D2 is alleged to be.
I found that the claimant’s evidence remained unshaken under cross-examination, such that it is not possible for any reasonable tribunal to come to the conclusion that there is incontrovertible evidence of forgery against the claimant without proper investigations and trial. The defendants should remember that when allegations of crimes are made in civil cases, there must be prove beyond reasonable doubt, which the defendants have failed to establish in this case. The arguments of the learned counsel to the 1st and 2nd defendants that the current position of the law is that an employer could dismiss notwithstanding allegations of crime against an employee without trial in court, is a misstatement of the law because, this rule is subject to conditions precedent, as I have shown earlier above; and which were not satisfied in the instant case.
The two conditions precedent under which an employer could dismiss without trial and conviction on criminal allegations are limited to when the employee admits the commission of the crime in issue and when there is incontrovertible evidence against the employee. None has been met in this case. So, Dongtoe v. CSC, Plateau State remains good authority on the facts of this case. The further argument that some documents were obtained after this case was instituted and after the dismissal and as such not admissible, is of no moment in this regard. Even without these documents, the defendants have not been able to bring up incontrovertible evidence against the claimant. Secondly, I did not even refer to these documents in coming to my conclusion. Let me state too, that it is not the law that once documents are made after the commencement of suits that they could not be given probative value. Such documents are admissible if made by a person in his official capacity or person who has no interest to protect in the case – see Peterside & Ors v. Wabara & Ors (2010) LPELR-4847 (CA) 8-9. C-D.
Most of these documents were either allegedly made by the 2nd and 3rd defendants or the counsel to the claimant, who all supposedly made these documents in the course of the their official or professional duties. The only thing that could be alleged is that, these documents are forged and which allegations parties have made against one another already; and since the allegation of forgery is in issue, they could be rightly admitted and have been rightly admitted without objection. In any case, that is just in passing. These documents were not referred to in the determination of this case. On the whole, issue 2 is resolved in favour of the claimant and against the defendants. Having resolved issue 2 against the defendants, I am left with the 3rd and last issue.
Issue 3, is whether the claimant is entitled to the reliefs claimed. Granting of reliefs is the necessary corollary of success in a suit. But, a successful litigant must still prove his entitlement to the reliefs claimed. The law is stated in Umeanozie v. FBN (2016) LPELR-41038 (CA) 13, B-C thus:
“It is the facts pleaded in the statement of claim that show entitlement to the reliefs claimed therein. So unless there are facts pleaded in the statement of claim showing entitlement to a relief claimed therein, then the claim for that relief fails on the pleading and does not qualify for trial.”
This principle is a corollary to the legal axiom that the court is not a Father Christmas. Not being a Father Christmas, it cannot therefore grant a relief not properly claimed. A relief that does not have its foundation properly grounded in the Statement of Facts is not a relief properly claimed and cannot therefore be granted. To do this would lead the Court to speculation. I have carefully looked at the six reliefs claimed and found that the claimant is not entitled to reliefs (iv) and (v), as they do not have relations with the pleaded facts in the Statement of Facts of the claimant. The claimant did not plead nor lead evidence on the issue of his employment being clothed with statutory flavour; and the law is that the status of an employment is a matter of fact and not law. You plead facts to show the nature and status of your employment. The claimant did not plead any fact to show the nature and status of his employment. He did not make even a cursory or casual reference to his terms and conditions of service nor did he lead any evidence in that regard. In fact, he did not also make any scintilla of reference throughout the gamut of his final address to the issue of the employment being spiced with statutory flavour. That an employment is with statutory flavour is not a matter of course. The mere fact that a statutory institution employed a person does not ipso facto confer the employment with statutory flavour. Idoniboye-Obu v. NNPC (2003) LPELR-1426 (SC) 30, A-B has stated the law clearly in the following words; and I quote:
“Before an employment can have statutory flavour the statute must expressly make it so. Otherwise the employment will have to be treated on the basis of common law principle of master and servant.”
The Court of Appeal in Federal Medical Centre, Ido-Ekiti & Ors v. Alabi (2011) LPELR-10931 (CA) 61, B-D stated the law beyond disputation thus:
“Now coming to the main issue for determination which is whether it is every employment in a Federal Government agency that is clothed with statutory flavour. The answer is simply No [sic]. The fact that the Respondent is a statutory body does not automatically mean that the condition of service of its employees must be of special character ruling out the relationship of master and servant. It is only when that employment is protected by statute which makes provisions for the procedure for employment and termination of such employment that it can respectfully be said that the employment is clothed with statutory flavour.”
Hence, the claimant having failed to plead, lead evidence that his employment is clothed with statutory flavour or even make reference to this in the final written address, the case must come under the banner of common law master-servant relationship. And I so hold. Therefore, the claimant is not entitled to reliefs (iv) and (v) which are corollary to unlawful determination of employment clothed with statutory flavour. Hence, I refuse to grant reinstatement and payment of arrears of salaries. I equally refuse to grant relief (ii), as the issue of forgeries raised in this case had not been fully tried; and this is not a criminal trial. I am of the opinion that, the controversies surrounding the result slip, the certificate, the verification letter and various other documents in issue and on which serial allegations of forgeries and counter-forgeries are raised could only be fully and satisfactorily resolved after a full-fledged and thorough criminal investigation involving all the parties and officers of the institutions involved is carried out and after a full-fledged criminal trial. However, I hold that, based on the facts of this case, no forgery has been established for now against the claimant or any of the parties or persons involved. This is not a criminal trial but purely a civil cause, which cannot ground autre foil acquit or convict. Thus, the issue raised therein in relief (ii) remained opened.
Having dealt with reliefs (ii), (iv) and (v) and refused to grant them. I am now left with reliefs (i), (iii), and (vi). With regard to relief (iii), which deals with quashing the dismissal letter, I grant it but order that the 1st and 2nd defendants issue the claimant with a letter of termination without stating any reason other than that, services no longer required and with the same date as the one quashed. This is because, this suit is determined on the basis of common law master-servant relationship; and an employer has the right to terminate employees at any time subject to giving reasonable notice or payment of salaries in lieu thereof under common law. Thus, where such appointment has been wrongfully determined, the remedy is normally payment of damages for the length of notice required to lawfully terminate the appointment or damages for breach of contract – see Anaja v. UBA PLC (2010) LPELR-3769 (CA) 17, A-E. Where no length of notice is provided, as in the instant case, where the conditions of service was not pleaded nor tendered, the Court is at liberty to imply reasonable notice – see Kusamotu v. Wemabod Estate Limited (1976) LPELR-1720 (SC) 12-13, F-B. That ends relief (iii). I move to relief (vi), which deals with general and exemplary damages.
I make haste to state on relief (vi) that, the society being dynamic, the law has shifted away from the narrow and harsh confines of common law; and now makes it possible to grant general damages above the normal payment in lieu of notice where the circumstances of termination warrant this. On being entitled to some damages on the peremptoriness of his termination for unjustified reasons, this Court has always held that, where termination is done in a peremptory manner suggestive of the employee doing something heinous, payment in lieu of notice cannot be considered sufficient, the employee must be granted some form of damages. This becomes more so, in the instant case, in which the claimant was actually terminated for an unproved allegations of forgeries so clearly stated in the letter of dismissal, such that, the future employability of the claimant would be negatively affected because, it is doubtful whether any employer of labour would be ready to employ someone dismissed for forging school certificate. In an unreported decision of this Court in Suit No. NICN/AB/2012 – Omoudu v. Obayan & 4 Ors (Delivered 08/10/2014) this Court stated the law on this point succinctly; and I quote with approval:
“In Industrial Cartons Ltd v. NUPAPPW (2006) 6 NLLR (Pt. 15) 258, a case of wrongful termination of employment, where it was decided that one month salary in lieu of notice would not meet the justice of the case. The Court frowned at the peremptory manner by which the Claimant’s appointment was terminated which it believed had the effect of suggesting that the Claimant did something wrong. The Court awarded six months salaries as meeting the justice of the case.”
This is in consonance with the burden-duty [jurisdiction] of this Court to prevent unfair labour practices by virtue of section 254C – (1)(f) of the 1999 Constitution [as altered] in line with international best practices. It is undoubtedly unfair and inequitable to carelessly malign an employee and dismiss him on unproved allegation of crime and thereby mar his future employability. In fact, the decision of the Supreme Court in SPDC Ltd v. Olarewaju  LPELR – 3046 [SC] p. 31, paras. D – G appeared to foreshadow this shift from the obtuse common law position in employment relations between master and servant because, in that case, the Supreme Court approved the award of N3million damages for detention and humiliation granted by the trial court against the employer. In the Industrial Carton’s case [supra], no reason was given for the termination. This Court awarded 6 months salaries to assuage the peremptoriness of the termination suggestive of culpability of the employee in gross misconduct. In this case, reasons were actually given to malign the claimant and tarnish his career image. Definitely, he must be entitled to more damages. I assess the damages at 12 months salaries as meeting the justice of the case. Having reached this juncture, it is clear that the claimant succeeded partly under relief (vi). Before I sign off on the reliefs, I cite Electricity Corporation of Nigeria v. George Nicol (1968) LPELR-25505 (SC) 14-15, D-E, with approval:
“…where the plaintiff was held to have been wrongly dismissed, the measure of damages was held to include salary and commission due to the plaintiff, and also staff pension and assurance scheme.”
I found that the claimant pleaded in paragraph 4 of his Statement of Facts that he was employed into the pensionable service of the 2nd defendant. This paragraph was admitted in paragraph 1 of the 1st and 2nd defendants’ Joint Statement of Defence. The claimant is therefore entitled to whatever terminal benefits has accrued to him having spent about 7 years in the service of the 2nd defendant before his termination. On the basis of the above authority, I therefore so hold. I now move to relief (i), which I have left hanging. Without much ado, the claimant is entitled to it; having being dismissed wrongfully for forgery, as found earlier on in this case; and I so hold. The judgment must therefore cruise to an end. I must proceed to make the final orders on the rights of the parties, having given the bases of my arrival at the reliefs to which the claimant is entitled. There I go.
Concluding this judgment and for the avoidance of doubt, I hereby grant the following reliefs and orders:
1. That the 1st & 2nd Defendants’ dismissal of the Claimant from employment on the basis of an alleged offence of forgery of General Certificate of Education, December, 1985 certificate issued by the 3rd Defendant when he has neither been investigated nor convicted over forgery of the said certificate is wrongful and violation of Claimant’s right to fair hearing guaranteed under section 36 of the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).
2. Set aside and quash the letter of dismissal dated 17th February 2014 issued by the 1st and 2nd Defendants wherein the Claimant was dismissed from employment.
3. That the 1st and 2nd defendants issue to the claimant within 30 days of the delivery of this judgment a letter of termination [not dismissal] without stating any reason other than that, services are no longer required.
4. That the 1st and 2nd defendants pay to the claimant 12-month [a year] salaries as damages for wrongfully dismissing the claimant on unproved allegations of forgeries.
5. That the 1st and 2nd defendants shall calculate and pay to the claimant all due terminal benefits to which the claimant was entitled at the date of termination.
6. That the 1st and 2nd defendants pay to the claimant within 30 days of the delivery of this judgment N200thousand Naira cost.
7. That, after the 30 days moratorium, the judgment sums begin to attract 10% interest rate per annum.
8. I refuse, in their entirety, reliefs (ii), (iv), and (v), as explained earlier on in this judgment.
The above is the judgment and orders of this Court in the instant case. Judgment is entered accordingly.
HON. JUSTICE O.O. AROWOSEGBE
NATIONAL INDUSTRIAL COURT OF NIGERIA