The Presiding Judge, Abuja Judicial division of the National Industrial Court, Hon. Justice Osatohanmwen Obaseki-Osaghae has dismissed the alleged unlawful compulsory retirement claim filed by one Nicholas against the Federal Inland Revenue Service for lacking merit.
Justice Obaseki-Osaghae held that the Federal Inland Revenue Service has established to the satisfaction of the Court the reason it compulsorily retired Nicholas from service.
The Court further declared that Nicholas’s scandalous misconduct of drunkenness in the office is grave, weighty and has eroded the confidence reposed in him by the revenue agency to carry out his duties, and awarded the sum of N100k against Nicholas in favour of the Federal Inland Revenue Service as cost of action.
From facts, the Claimant- Nicholas had submitted that on the 9th and 23rd of May 2019, he had taken some local herbs during working hours for treatment of typhoid fever not knowing that the herbs had some alcoholic content which caused him to become intoxicated and look drunk.
He stated that he was served with a query which he promptly responded to and expressed his deep and sincere regret for taking the local herb before reporting for work, and also apologized for mercy accompanied by a resolution not to repeat that act.
Furthermore, Nicholas stated that he appeared before the Officers’ Disciplinary Committee and again pleaded for mercy, and was later served with a notification of his compulsory retirement from the service.
Nicholas averred that the process leading to his compulsory retirement was not in compliance with the FIRS’s Human Resource Policies and processes, and urged the court to set it aside.
In defence, the Defendant- Federal Inland Revenue Service stated that Nicholas’s records show that he not only has a history of drunkenness at the workplace which makes it impossible for him to perform his duties but also absent himself from work without permission and had appeared before the officers’ Disciplinary Committee sitting in two (2) instances.
The FIRS added that Nicholas was served with a letter of warning against the repeat of a similar act of drunkenness on several occasions and had been pardoned.
The Federal Inland Revenue Service stated that it notified Nicholas of the provisions of the law upon which it relied to compulsorily retire him for scandalous misconduct/drunkenness, and his failure to commence the exit process had delayed the payment of his retirement benefits and urged the Court to dismiss the case.
In opposition, Nicholas’s counsel contended that the Officer’s Disciplinary Committees set up by the Defendant were not fair to the Claimant when they failed to permit him to listen to the testimony of the witnesses during the disciplinary proceedings set up to inquire into allegations of his drunkenness on duty.
Delivering judgment, the presiding Judge, Justice Obaseki-Osaghae held that there are no averments in Nicholas’s pleadings that his employment is one with statutory flavour, neither are there any averments by him that his fundamental right to fair hearing was breached.
The Court maintained that when an employee complains that his employment has been unlawfully terminated, he has the burden not only to place before the court the terms and conditions of his employment but how the said terms or conditions were breached by the employer.
Justice Obaseki held that the FIRS’s offer of appointment to Nicholas for the position of Gardener does not state the terms and conditions under which he is employed and does not make any reference to any other document, that the only proper conclusion to reach on the employment status and relationship between the parties is that it is one of master-servant.
Justice Obaseki held that the evidence before the court reveals that Nicholas had been queried over the years spanning 2014 to 2019 for drunkenness during official hours, and the Defendant has established to the satisfaction of the court the reason it compulsorily retired Nicholas.
“The Claimant’s scandalous misconduct of drunkenness in the office is grave and weighty; it has eroded and undermined the confidence reposed in him by the Defendant to carry out his duties. I am satisfied that Defendant has justified the reason it compulsorily retired the Claimant. I hold that the Claimant’s compulsory retirement by the Defendant is lawful.” The Court ruled