The Calabar Division of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria has on 29th March, 2021, ordered the Governor of Cross Rivers State, Ben Ayade to restore the names of some Magistrates to the state’s payroll and to pay them their 19 monts salary arrears within 60 days.
The suit was filed on 5th December, 2019 against the State governor as 1st Defendant and the Government of Cross River State as 2nd Defendant while the Attorney General of Cross River State is named as 3rd Defendant. Others are the Cross River State Civil Service Commission and the Cross River State Judicial Service Commission named as 4th and 5th Defendants respectively.
Honourable Justice M. N. Esowe while delivering the judgment virtually ordered the payment of the 19 months unpaid salaries arrears of the Claimants from December 2016 to May 2017 and September 2019 to September 2020.
The Court condemned the removal of the names of the Claimants from government payroll adding that employment with statutory flavour is not based on the wishful thinking of a governor, and that the decision of the governor to delist, de-activate or remove the names of the claimants from payroll before a so-called scheduled verification exercise amounted to putting the cart before the horse and therefore tantamount to executive rascality.
The Court also condemned the action of the defendants in making unauthorised deductions from the claimants’ salaries under the guise of purchasing laptops to improve and enhance efficiency of the claimants. Accordingly, the Court ordered the claimants to refund all deductions already made as well as granted a perpetual injunction restraining the defendants, their servants or privies from making further deductions from the claimants’ salaries under the guise of purchasing computers or any other deduction without the consent or authorisation of the claimants.
However, the Court did not grant the 20% post judgement interest relief and that of general and exemplary damages.
Recall that the Claimant had in the suit claimed that they were employed by the 2nd defendant as Law Officers (State Counsel) in the Cross River State Ministry of Justice, with effect from December, 2016, and that they subsequently transferred their services to the Judiciary following their elevation/appointment as Magistrates in the Cross River State Judiciary with effect from 3rd April, 2018 for the 1st claimant and 3rd February, 2019 for the 2nd to 6th claimants, and they were also issued with Letters of Transfer of Service.
However, that from January to August, 2019 the defendants made a monthly deduction of N5,666.70 for “HOS Computer” from each of the claimants’ salaries. And that the deductions were made without the claimants’ authority or consent and no computer has been given to any of the claimants for the deductions so made from their salaries. But between January to August 2019 the total sum of N45,333.60 were deducted by the defendants from the salary of each claimant for the “HOS Computer
The claimants were represented by Essien H. Andrew (SAN). Others were Eton Effiong Essien, Eno Iyamba, Abigail Bassey Asuquo, Ekok Asuo Okpokam, Glory Effiom Ironbar and Gabriel Awah Ebebe.
They sought the following reliefs:
“1. A DECLARATION that the claimants are bona fide employees of the defendants, and their employments which are governed by statute and the civil service rules are still subsisting.
2. A DECLARATION that the claimants, as lawful employees of the defendants, are entitled to all their earned and accrued salaries.
3. A DECLARATION that the 1st defendant’s decision to remove the claimants’ names, from the 2nd defendant’s payroll is unjustifiable, unlawful, null and void.
4. AN ORDER directing the defendants to restore and reinstate all the claimants forthwith on the payroll of the Cross River State government.
5. A DECLARATION that the unauthorized monthly deductions made from the claimants’ salaries from January to August, 2019 for “HOS Computer” is unlawful, illegal and unjustifiable.
6. AN ORDER of perpetual injunction restraining the defendants either by themselves, their servants, agents or privies from making any further deductions for “HOS Computer” from the claimants’ earned salaries.
7. AN ORDER directing the Defendants to pay the 1st Claimant the sum of One Million, Nine Hundred and Ninety Thousand, Four Hundred and Eighty-Seven Naira, Ninety-Three kobo (N1,990,487. 93) only as special damages.
8. AN ORDER directing the defendants to pay the 2nd to 6th Claimants the sum of One Million, Five Hundred and Forty-Two Thousand, Six Hundred and Ninety-Five Naira, Thirteen kobo (N1,542,695 .13) each as special damages.”
They also sought “AN ORDER directing the defendants to pay to the claimants jointly the sum of N500, 000, 000.00 (Five Hundred Million Naira) only as general damages for the excruciating difficulties, psychological trauma and emotional anxiety caused to the claimants by the defendants.” and “20% post judgment interest to be calculated on the total judgment debt from the date of judgment and until the judgment debt is paid in full.”