By Ozioruva Aliu
THE Benin Division of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria on Monday nullified the sack of workers of the Edo State College of Agriculture, Iguoriakhi, and ordered a compensation of N4m each for all the affected workers and general damage of N500,000 to the claimants.
Delivering the judgment in the suit no NICN/BEN/25/2018 between Mr Imhenrion O. Martin, Mr Adorolo O. Michael, Mr Osayande Clifford, Mrs. Mercy Ozabor, Mr Eikhor Nosakhare Abel as claimants and Edo State Government, Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources, the Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice, Provost of the College of Agriculture, Iguoriakhi and the Governing Council of the College as defendants, Justice Abiola Adewemimo said the compensation should be paid to the almost 90 workers within 30 days and failure to do same, the amount will attract an annual interest of 10 per cent.
She said the state government was wrong to have claimed that the workers were temporary workers as according to her their letters of employment indicated a period of probation which she said does not translate to temporary workers. “This court is to check labour practice and for the defendant to say their employment was temporary connotes unfair labour practices”
She said even though an employer has the right to terminate employment, such actions must be done in accordance with established conditions of service and she said the Edo state government did not do that in this case.
Justice Adewemimo said though the government did not show any evidence that the school was no longer in existence but that it was being restructured and therefore it would be difficult to reinstate the workers as demanded.
She said the special damages in the form of salaries and promotions claimed by the workers could not be given because they did not prove them with the statutorily required documents to enjoy such benefits.
Reacting to the judgment, counsel to the workers, Matthew Edaghese the court has in its wisdom held that the so-called termination of appointment was null and void, it negates all known and relevant labour laws. It was a reckless executive indiscretion. This is a warning to the executive arm of government that they are governed by the laws of the land and they are not laws unto themselves.”
The workers instituted the court action in August 2018 as a result of the termination of their appointment by the state government which said it was restructuring the institution.