Industrial Court Dismisses Suits Reinstatement Claim Against IGP, 2 Others

Hon. Justice Zaynab Bashir of the Portharcourt Judicial Division of the National Industrial Court has dismissed the case filed by one Sgt. Nwobiri Godwin against The Inspector General of Police and 2 others challenging his reinstatement for lacking merit in its entirety.

Justice Zaynab held that there is nothing before the court to elicit that Sgt. Godwin is an employee of the Police Service Commission, as there is no letter of employment, confirmation letter, no promotion letter, no statement of account or anything to suggest to the court and from where the court can even draw inference that Sgt. Godwin is indeed an employee of the Police Service Commission.

From facts, the Claimant- Sgt. Nwobiri Godwin had submitted that he was employed into the Nigeria Police Force on the 1st day of December 1989 by the Police Service Commission to render services to the Inspector General of Police and the Commissioner of Police Rivers State Police Command. He stated that in 2006 he was posted on guard duty where he took ill and reported to his division and he was advised to take sick leave, which he did and was hospitalized for three months.

Sgt. Godwin averred further that upon getting better he resumed duty and was about to leave the station, his department State Officer ordered for his detention and he was also later released the same day.

He stated that he was surprised that the next morning, when he resumed work he was accused of escaping detention and since then he has been going to work but was not assigned to any duty and his salary was not paid despite all efforts.

However, despite the service of several hearing notices, the Inspector General of Police and 2 others failed to defend the action and afterwards, the matter was adjourned for adoption of final written address.

Sgt. Godwin’s counsel argued that his client has in evidence proved that he had a reasonable excuse why he was absent from duty. Counsel added that a police officer shall not be convicted as a deserter or of attempting to desert unless the court is satisfied that there was an intention on the part of the officer either not to return to the police force or to escape some particular important service.

Learned Counsel contended that Sgt. Godwin did not have any intention not to return to the Police Force or to escape some particular important service, but his client reported several times for work and the Defendants continued promising to look into his case but never gave him work or paid his salary.

In a well-considered judgement, the presiding Judge, Justice Zaynab Bashir held that the relief sought by Sgt. Godwin is a declarative relief and the burden is placed on him to establish his entitlement to the claim on the strength of his own case and not on the weakness of the case of the defendant.

Justice Zaynab ruled that it is the duty of Sgt. Godwin to first establish before the court that he is an employee of the Police Service Commission before the court can decide as to whether or not the employment is subsisting, and to prove such employment, a letter of employment will be the best-determining factor.

The Court stated that Sgt. Nwobiri Godwin seeking the declaration of the court that his employment with the defendant is still subsisting has the onus to establish with cogent and reliable evidence that there exists a contract of employment between him and the defendants.