Industrial Court Orders Rivers Universal Basic Education Board to Reinstate Chukwu Ukeni With Payment of Salary from 2017 Till Date

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Hon. Justice Polycarp Hamman of the Portharcourt Judicial Division of the National Industrial Court has declared the continued withholding of placement or reinstatement of Miriam Uche Mark by the Rivers State Universal Basic Education Board since 24th day of March 2017, to date without official explanation as capricious, vindictive, oppressive, illegal, unlawful and constitutes a gross abuse of powers.

The Court granted an order compelling the Rivers State Universal Basic Education Board to place or reinstate Mrs. Miriam into any of the Primary Schools in Emohua Local Government Area of Rivers State in the name of Chukwu Uche Ukeni (Mrs.) pending the completion of her change of name with the board.

Justice Polycarp ordered the Rivers State Universal Basic Education Board to compute and pay Mrs Miriam her loss of basic salary of N31,480.00 (Thirty-one thousand, Four Hundred and Eighty Naira) only per month and her allowances of N6,785.49 (Six thousand, Seven Hundred and eighty-Five Naira, Forty Nine Kobo) only per month totalling N38, 265.49 (Thirty-Eight thousand, Two hundred and Sixty Five Naira, Forty Nine Kobo) only per month commencing from March 2017 till date within 30 days.

From facts, the claimant- Miriam Uche Mark had submitted that prior to her marriage she was known and addressed as Chukwu Uche Ukeni and was employed by Ebonyi State Universal Basic Education Board as a classroom teacher on the 1st of May, 2007 on Salary Grade Level 05 step 1, and applied for an inter-state transfer to Emohua Local Government Area, Rivers State, that despite the assurance and willingness of the Rivers State and the Executive Chairman of the Rivers State Universal Basic Education Board to accept the transfer and the request to release her along with her transfer documents, the agency has failed/or neglected to re-instate her claiming that her internal file is missing.

According to Miriam, she had continued to demand that she be re-instated and all efforts were to no avail and she cannot go back to her former employer, the Ebonyi State Universal Basic Education Board who had released her with some documents based on the defendant’s demand or request.

In defence, the defendant- Rivers State Universal Basic Education Board failed to defend the suit, but only filed a Notice of Preliminary Objection and urged the court to dismiss the case for lack of jurisdiction on the ground that Miriam has no locus standi to institute the action, and also that the action is statute-barred.

Rivers State Education Board averred that Miriam Uche Mark is not one and the same person transferred from Ebonyi State Universal Basic Education Board to Rivers State Universal Basic Education Board, and there is no record of such staff in the agency’s list of personnel, and the Public Service Rules enjoins an aggrieved staff a right to protest to a higher authority. That non-compliance with that laid down condition before the institution of a case renders the action incompetent.

In opposition, the claimant’s counsel, D. I. Anazor Esq argued that an agreement voluntarily entered into by parties must be honoured in good faith, that there was a mutual agreement between his client and the Rivers State Universal Basic Education Board for her transfer and urged the Court 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 Polycarp Hamman dismissed the Rivers State Universal Basic Education Board objection for lacking merit and affirmed that Miriam Uche Mark has established not just a cause of action against the board but also the locus standi to institute the instant suit.

Justice Polycarp held that Miriam who has not been integrated into the service of the Rivers State Universal Basic Education Board despite the letter of transfer from the Ebonyi State Universal Basic Education Board cannot be regarded as one that must exhaust the administrative dispute resolution mechanisms before approaching the Court.

“It is hereby declared that the continued withholding of placement or reinstatement of the Claimant by the defendant after the Executive Chairman of the defendant had responded to the letter from Ebonyi State Universal Basic Education Board that they are willing to accept the Claimant on interstate transfer and that they should release her to them only to abscond/abandon the Claimant to date without official explanation by the defendant is punitive and a breach of the Claimant’s right to fair hearing.” Justice Polycarp ruled.

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