Lagos –The Presiding Judge of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria, Akure division, His Lordship, Hon. Justice O. O. Oyewumi has declared the invitation letter sent to a former lecturer of Kwara State University Dr. Murtada Ahmad to appear before the University committee after resignation as unlawful and set aside the purported letter of dismissal dated 27th day of October 2017.
The court held that the resignation of a public officer takes effect when the writing signifying the resignation is received by the authority or person to whom it is addressed or by any person authorized by that authority or person to receive it.
The Claimant Dr. Murtada Ahmad was the Ag. HOD Mass Communication and resigned his appointment with the Kwara State University -1stdefendant’s with effect from 14th July 2017 wherein he resolved to refund three(3) months’ salary in lieu of Notice in line with his letter of employment.
That after his resignation and receipt/acknowledgment of same by the Registrar -3rddefendant, he was issued a query dated 2nd August 2017 by the 1stdefendant signed by the 3rddefendant giving him 48 hours to explain why disciplinary action should not be taken against him for an allegation of misconduct which he denied.
It was his averment that despite his resignation, the university kept paying his salary for the months of July, August and September 2017 which he strongly believed was an error and he refunded the salaries erroneously paid to the 1stdefendant’s Account and later wrote a covering letter to the 3rddefendant for the refund on the 14th August 2017. He stated that he returned the unutilized TETFUND Conference grant given to him by the 1stdefendant and was issued a receipt dated 16th August 2017 for the refund and acknowledged the receipts for the payment of 3 months’ salary in lieu of notice.
That to his utmost chagrin, he was served with a letter dated 23rd August 2017 from the university inviting him for interaction, and due to the fact that he was no longer an employee of the 1stdefendant, he dismissed the invitation.
That after the institution of this case, he was served with a backdated letter of dismissal from the defendants’ on the 31st October 2017 which he responded to reiterating his stand that he had since resigned his appointment since 14th July 2017.
The claimant sought against the defendants among others for A Declaration that having resigned his appointment with the 1stDefendant vide his letter of resignation dated 14th July 2017, the claimant cannot be validly subjected to any invitation to appear before the Kwara State University Senior Staff Disciplinary Committee, headed by the 4thDefendant or any committee whatever set up and /or established by the 1st defendant for its staff.
The defendants averred that the claimant was issued a query after the receipt of his voluntary statement and it was found that the allegations levied against him were true and the circumstances decipherable from his answer to the said allegation indicate that his action was not proper.
The defendants continued that the salaries paid to the claimant was not erroneously paid but were paid due to the fact that he was still in the employ of the defendant, they also noted that the purported letter of resignation of the claimant was received but that the acceptance of the said letter was put on hold because the claimant had not fulfilled condition contingent on his termination and the fact that the claimant has an allegation of misconduct pending against him that the claimant was invited to appear before the Senior Staff Disciplinary Committee twice but did not honor the invitation.
On the other hand, the defendant witness under cross-examination did not controvert that the claimant did pay the 3months’ salary in lieu of notice but contended that the said payment was not paid in a lump sum but in installments as opposed to payment simultaneously with resignation when a letter of resignation was issued.
After careful evaluation of all the processes filed, and the submissions of the learned Counsel from both sides, the Court presided by Hon. Justice O. O. Oyewumi held that a letter of resignation becomes effective upon delivery.
“…resignation is not invalid if the employee doesn’t give proper notice, it simply creates a breach of contract and as such an employer can hold the employee to the notice period. All it means is that the employee must work out the full notice required and if the employee doesn’t the employer can claim for damages. That is the extant position of the law. This is the position of the learned defence counsel put differently.
“From the foregoing, it is not in doubt that the claimant in this suit was in the know of the allegation levied against him by the defendants and hence severed his appointment with the 1st defendant.
“Now the question to answer is can the defendants discipline the claimant after he had resigned his employment? I have earlier held that the claimant on the 14th of July, 2017 resigned his appointment from the 1st defendant.
“This evince the fact that the claimant has left the services of the defendants and severed his employment relationship with them. If there is any breach at all, the effect of that breach lies in damages simpliciter [payment of salary in lieu of notice already paid and accepted by the 1st defendant]; and not to hold the claimant as its employee who can be called upon to answer to disciplinary procedures as it wishes.
“It is, therefore, without peradventure that I find that the claimant upon his resignation on the 14th of July, 2017 cannot be validly subjected to any disciplinary actions by the 1st defendant.
“It is in consequence that I hold that the invitation to appear before the 1st defendant and the subsequent invitation extended to him by the 1st defendant Senior Staff Disciplinary Committee headed by the 4thdefendant to appear before the said committee after his resignation from the services of the 1st defendant is unlawful. Accordingly, all the letters of invitation are hereby set aside.” Justice Oyewumi stated.
The court awarded the sum of N50,000 as cost against the defendants jointly and severally.