Industrial Court Voids Abubakar’s Dismissal, Rejects Order To Set Aside Quit Notice

Hon. Justice Rakiya Haastrup of the Abuja Judicial Division of the National Industrial Court has set aside the purported dismissal of Mr Abubakar Sule by Nicon Insurance Ltd.

The Court validated the resignation of Mr Abubakar from office and held that the resignation of Mr Abubakar became effective upon receipt of same by Nicon Insurance Ltd on 17th May 2021.

However, the Court rejected Mr. Abubakar’s claims for payment or refund of pension, NHF and PAYE contributions due to lack of proof, and also refused the claim for an order to set aside quit notice dated 3rd June 2021 issued by the Nicon Insurance Ltd to vacate his official premises.

Justice Haastrup stated that Mr Abubakar was allocated the premises by Nicon Insurance and has now ceased to be an employee of the firm and that a person who is permitted to occupy a house by virtue of his employment is only a licensee, not a tenant.

From facts, the claimant- Mr. Abubakar Sule had submitted that Nicon Insurance demanded that he must satisfy 3 (three) conditions before his resignation would be accepted, to which he directed his lawyer to issue a response. However, to his dismay, he was served a letter of dismissal and 7 days quit notice to vacate his official premises.

He further asserted that Nicon Insurance deducted monies for the National Housing fund, Pension and Pay as You Earn contributions and failed to remit the sums to the appropriate authorities, urging the court to grant the reliefs sought.

In defence, Nicon Insurance Ltd asserted that Mr Abubakar failed to resume at his new station and neither did he obtain approval to proceed on casual leave.

The Defendant’s counsel concludes that Mr. Abubakar’s absence from duty is in disobedience to a lawful order of his employer and without any justification and was therefore liable to summary dismissal.

The Company also stated that it has remitted Mr. Abubakar’s contribution for pension, NHF and PAYE tax, and averred that it issued Abubakar a letter of dismissal and 7 days’ notice to quit the official residence he occupied in line with the law.

Furthermore, Nicon Insurance Ltd challenged the jurisdiction of the Court to entertain facts of the reliefs relating to the tenancy claim which is not within the jurisdiction power of the Court, and urged the court to dismiss the suit with cost for lacking merit.

Under cross-examination, Mr Abubakar admitted that he has no evidence that he approached the CEO of the firm to inform him about the intention to further his education, nor that the CEO threatened him.

He further admitted that he has no evidence of the computations of sums claimed as pension and NHF unremitted contributions and that he is not paying any rent to the firm despite still being in possession of its property.

However, Mr. Abubakar’s counsel submitted that there is no proof of any offence being committed by his client to warrant dismissal and that the letter of dismissal is incompetent as same is unsigned and consequently worthless.

In a well-considered judgment, the presiding Judge, Justice Rakiya Haastrup affirmed the jurisdiction of the Court and held that the main claim in the matter is employment-related, and the ancillary claim that borders on tenancy is so tied to the main claim and cannot be deterred from it.

Justice Haastrup stated that where a claim falls within the jurisdiction of two Courts, the Court with the jurisdiction to entertain the main claim is the proper Court to determine the matter.

Furthermore, the Court validated the resignation of Mr. Abubakar and held that there is absolute power to resign and an employer enjoys no discretion to accept or refuse to accept a notice of resignation.

On the alleged dismissal of Mr Abubakar, Justice Haastrup reinstated that there was no employment in existence between the parties that Nicon Insurance Ltd could have possibly dismissed.

However, the Court further stated that Mr Abubakar failed to adduce any evidence to prove non-remittance of pension, NHF and PAYE contributions despite Nicon Insurance Ltd’s evidence to the effect that it has paid.