Court orders government to pay worker N5m over illegal suspension

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The National Industrial Court sitting in Enugu State has ordered Ebonyi State Government to pay the sum of N5 million as damages to a suspended public servant, Cletus Nwakpu.

The presiding judge, Justice Oluwakayode Arowosegbe awarded the N5 million damages in favour of Nwakpu against the state government for unlawfully relieving him of his job as the Project Coordinator of the World Bank Assisted Third National FADAMA Development Project in Ebonyi State.

The court ordered the state government to pay the claimant all his withheld salaries till date and the sum of N500, 000 as cost of litigation.

Nwakpu was in February 2017 appointed as Project Coordinator of the World Bank Assisted Third National FADAMA Development Project in Ebonyi State but was later suspended by the state government on July 14, 2020 over allegation of N300 million fraud.

Ruling on the suit marked NICN/ABK/08/20 in Enugu, Justice Arowosegbe declared that the state government violated the rights of fair hearing of the claimant and in the course of the matter, failed to justify the said indefinite suspension slammed on him.

He held that there was no reasonable and justifiable reason to suspend the claimant without pay, describing the indefinite suspension as constructive dismissal.

The judge faulted the state government for suspending the claimant for over three years on an alleged criminal offence without prosecuting him in a court of law.

He held that the state government ought not to have suspended or sacked the claimant without pay, without first charging him to court to prove the allegations against him.

Justice Arowosegbe averred that it is not the duty of the state government or its agencies to try or pass judgement on an employee over an alleged criminal offence.

The court therefore declared Nwakpu’s suspension as unlawful, null, void and of no consequence.

It declared all actions purporting to have suspended or sacked the employee as carried out by the State Governor, Ebonyi State Executive Council, the Ebonyi State Fiscal Responsibility Commission and the State Head of Service as null, void, unlawful and of no effect.