Industrial Court Faults Nigeria Custom 19 years Suspension of Jatau from Service, Orders Immediate Reinstatement

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The Presiding Judge, Kaduna Judicial Division of the National Industrial Court, Hon. Justice Sinmisola Adeniyi has declared that Abubakar Suleiman Jatau’s employment with the Nigeria Customs Service and Nigeria Customs Service Board subsist and declared the refusal of the Nigeria Customs Service to pay Abubakar Jatau’s monthly salaries and other entitlements since 2004 as unconscionable, unlawful, unfair and unjust.

Justice Adeniyi ordered the Nigeria Customs Service and Nigeria Customs Service Board to immediately recall and reinstate Abubakar Suleiman Jatau to the service with payment of all his salaries, allowances and other entitlements from May 2004 till date within 30 days.

The Court declared the non-payment of Abubakar Jatau’s salaries and entitlement for over nineteen (19) years as vindictive, oppressive, unjustifiable and unfair labour practice.

Justice Adeniyi awarded the sum of N300,000.00 (Three Hundred Thousand Naira) as general damages and the sum of N200,000 cost of action against the Nigeria Customs Service and Nigeria Customs Service Board.

From facts, the Claimant- Abubakar Jatau had submitted that an allegation of absence from duty was levelled against him and he was issued with a query but was cleared based on his explanation that he was on sick leave. However, despite being cleared of the allegation, his salary was stopped and was not invited to appear before a disciplinary committee until after four years.

Abubakar Jatau averred that the disciplinary committee found him innocent of the allegation and the Nigeria Customs Service and Nigeria Customs Service Board have since refused to reinstate or pay his salaries and other entitlements since 2004.

In defense, the defendants- Nigeria Customs Service and Nigeria Customs Service Board maintained that Abubakar Suleiman Jatau is unknown to the service; that an employee of the Nigeria Customs Service cannot leave his duty post without a permit to travel; that as at June 2004, the Suleiman A. J. that worked with the service was ASCII and not DSC as claimed.

The Nigeria Customs Service further averred that the Court lacks the jurisdiction to entertain Abubakar Jatau’s case for being statute barred having been instituted seventeen (17) years after the cause of action accrued and the failure to serve pre-action notice on the Nigeria Customs Service Board.

In reply, learned counsel for Jatau, A. H. Danmaigauta Esq argued that his client has proved the acknowledged copy of the pre-action notice served on the Nigeria Customs Service and its Board and urged the Court to assume its jurisdiction that the case is not statute-barred and to grant the reliefs sought in the interest of justice.

Delivering judgment after careful evaluation of the submission of both parties, the presiding Judge, Hon. Justice Sinmisola Adeniyi held that Abubakar Jatau’s grievance against the Nigeria Customs Service and Nigeria Customs Service Board for his suspension and non-payment of his salaries for over sixteen (16) years and without redress is tantamount to continuous damage which has not abated or ceased as provided in Nigerian Customs Service Board Act.

The Court ruled that Abubakar Jatau’s action falls within the purview of the exception of continuous damage, as the alleged non-payment of his salaries and entitlements was unabated, and the defence that the claim is statute-barred is not available to the Nigeria Customs Service.

The Court held that Abubakar Jatau has led evidence that he was an employee of the Nigeria Customs Service and the agency has no valid basis to deny that such fact.

Justice Adeniyi faulted the action of the Nigeria Customs Service and Nigeria Customs Service Board that for donkey years, Abubakar Jatau has suffered hardship, deprivation and humiliation without just cause for his reinstatement, salaries and other entitlements without redress.

The Court held that the refusal of the Nigeria Customs Service and Nigeria Customs Service Board to recall and reinstate Abubakar Jatau after he has been cleared of the allegation of absence from duty since May 2004 is unconscionable, unlawful, unfair and unjust.

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