Pension Fraud: Maina’s Suit Suffers Setback At Industrial Court

Pension Fraud: Maina’s Suit Suffers Setback At Industrial Court

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Efforts by the embattled former chairman of the Pension Reform Task Team, PRTT, Mr. Abdulrasheed Maina, to be reinstated into the federal challenging his dismissal from the Federal Civil Service suffered setback, Wednesday, as the National Industrial Court, NIC, Abuja, yesterday, faulted the procedure adopted by his counsel.

It will be recalled that the Head of Service of the Federation (HoSF), had dismissed the pension boss from office, in line with an earlier resolution by the Senate, which urged President Goodluck Jonathan to sack Maina from office,owing to some irreconcilable differences regarding pension probe.

Consequent upon his sack, Maina had through his counsel, M. Magaji SAN, instituted an action dated March 19.

Among other questions posed for the determination of the court, was whether the HoSF “can legally or validly dismiss or terminate the claimant’s employment based on a resolution by the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria”.

He went further to ask whether the Minister of Interior, Comrade Abba Moro, can issue him a query, even though his schedule of duty does not fall directly under his purview.

In the light of the aforestated issues, therefore, the claimant prayed the court for an order quashing his dismissal/termination of employment, as well as an order reinstating him to his former position.

He also invited the court to declare any further action taken by the Head of Service, during the pendency of the suit,as “null and void”.

And, as compensation for the perceived lose and “psychological” pain he may have been put through, as a result of the dismissal, Maina indulged the court for a N2. 5 billion.

While this lasted, however, Justice Adejumoh, had suo motu, asked counsel to the claimant as well as all defence counsel, to address the court on the “propriety or otherwise of commencing an action for dismissal or termination of employment via an originating summons”, rather than coming by way of writ of summons.

In his written address, in compliance with the mood and tenor of the court, Magaji argued that “originating summons is the most appropriate form of commencing an action for determination of termination or dismissal, since the employment in question,is statutory in nature,while the various agencies and or offices are creations of the law”.

In a unanimous opposition to the mode of filing of the claim, counsel to the defendants prayed the court to strike out the entire suit, for being incompetent.

They submitted  further that, since the incompetent nature of the suit ultimately robs the court of its inherent jurisdiction to try same, the only option to throw out the suit, moreso that very “tangible and substantial” issues needed to be resolved.

Delivering his ruling, Adejumo agreed with the position of the defendants that “where there is substantial dispute of facts, originating summons is inappropriate”.

According to the judge, “it is easy to discern from the perusal of affidavit and the counter-affidavits that they are replete with denials.

“It is clear that contrary to the assertion of the claimant that he was not given fair hearing, the counters showed that the claimant was given enough opportunity to defend himself.

“There is a cloud of controversy and uncertainty leading to the issuance of query…and a proper procedure that will be required here, is a writ of summons”, the judge observed.

The judge continued by stating thus:”I’m of the opinion that the contentious issues are not inconsequential or irrelevant to the determination of the suit;the court has a sacred duty to unravel what actually led to the dismissal of the claimant.

“A claim of damage must be specifically pleaded, and oral evidence must be adduced, for cross examination. Once it is clear that there will be substantial issues of facts, it is better to commence the suit by way of writ of summons.

“On the whole, I’m in agreement that it is improper to commence an action bordering on dismissal, particularly,when there are substantial issues to be unraveled.

“I’m of the considered view that the action was improperly commenced. I hereby order parties herein to file and serve their statements of claim and defence within two weeks each”, Adejumoh concluded.

By the ruling, Maina’s counsel would have to amend his suit, in compliance   with order 3,rule 4 of the court’s rules,as well as its practice direction.

While adjourning to July 22 and 23, for hearing, the judge warned respective counsel against filing any application for extension of time, even as he promised to accord the matter accelerated hearing.

Listed as co-defendants in the labour-related suit, besides HoSF, are the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and minister of Justice, the Senare, the Federal Civil Service Commission and the minister of Interior.