Industrial Court faults NDA on Indefinite Suspension of Senior Nursing Officer, Validates Resignation

Hon. Justice Sinmisola Adeniyi sitting in Kaduna Judicial Division of the National Industrial Court has declared the indefinite suspension of Senior Nursing Officer, Mrs. Nike Gomina from office and the refusal of the Nigeria Defence Academy to process or accept her letter of resignation as unjustifiable and unlawful.

The Court ordered the Nigeria Defence Academy to pay Mrs. Nike Gomina the sum of N4,115,279.35 (Four Million, One Hundred and Fifteen Thousand, Two Hundred and Seventy-Nine Naira, Thirty-Five Kobo) only, being arrears of salary from the date of her suspension in July 2015 till February 2017, the date of resignation of her appointment within 30 days.

Justice Adeniyi further awarded the sum of N1,000,000.00 (One Million Naira) only in favour of Mrs. Gomina being general damages for the psychological trauma, and hardship she suffered resulting from the indefinite suspension, and refusal of the Nigeria Defence Academy to accept her resignation and denial of her salaries.

From facts, the Claimant- Mrs. Nike Gomina had submitted that she has been on indefinite suspension as a result of the case instituted by the third party against the Nigeria Defence Academy at the High Court in 2015 over the leasehold of the property she occupied by the FG, that she had tendered her letter of resignation but the Defence Academy refused to accept her resignation and failed to pay arrears of her salaries and other entitlements.

She contended that Stanbic Ibtc Pension refused to process payment of her pension and maintained that she is no longer interested in the Defence Academy’s employment for health reasons.

In defence, 1st Defendant- Nigeria Defence Academy averred that Mrs. Gomina and other members of staff of the 1st Defendant were advised from embarking on bidding for any of the staff residences they occupied by virtue of their employment but Mrs. Gomina and some staff defied the instruction.

The Nigeria Defence Academy submitted that Mrs. Gomina had abandoned her duty after she tendered her letter of resignation; that her resignation was not processed because of a pending case in Court and that appeal against the judgement of the High Court and garnishee proceedings are pending in the Court of Appeal.

The witness to NDA further testified that before Mrs. Gomina application to access the retirement savings can be processed, the Stanbic Ibtc Pension Managers must obtain her letter of retirement or letter of confirmation of valid resignation from the employment of the Defence Academy, that Mrs. Gomina’s action against the Pension Managers is premature, and urged the court to dismiss the case.

The learned Counsel to the Defence Academy objected to the jurisdiction of the court to hear the matter on the ground that Mrs. Gomina’s case is statute-barred, and argued that where an employee is on suspension, he or she cannot resign and if he or she applies for resignation, it will not be allowed.

Delivering judgment after careful evaluation of the submission of both parties, the presiding Judge, Justice Sinmisola Adeniyi held that the defence that the claim is statute-barred is not available to the Nigeria Defence Academy that the alleged damage or injury suffered by Mrs. Gomina as a result of her indefinite suspension by the Academy, has not abated and tantamount to continuous damage.

The Court held that the Nigeria Defence Academy’s right to suspend its staff as provided for in the Regulations Governing Conditions of Service of Academic Senior Non-Teaching and Junior Civilian Staff is not indefinite.

The Court declared the action of the Nigeria Defence Academy to have suspended Mrs. Nike Gomina for almost two (2) years, particularly when the case had been determined by the Court in her favour and also having tendered her letter of resignation is not only oppressive and wicked but unjustifiable and unlawful.

Justice Adeniyi reiterated that Mrs. Gomina has the absolute right to resignation and the Defence Academy has no discretion to refuse to accept it.

The Court held that Mrs. Gomina is deemed to have resigned from the Nigeria Defence Academy’s employment from the date her letter of resignation was received by the Defence Academy.

However, the court dismissed Mrs. Gomina’s claim against the Stanbic Ibtc Pension Managers for being premature.