22 January 2014

Nigeria: Unlawful Removal - Bashir Gwandu Wins Suit Against Jonathan

The National Industrial Court (NIC) yesterday declared as illegal the removal of Dr Bashir Gwandu, former executive director of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).

Gwandu, through his lawyer Mr Femi Falana (SAN), challenged the propriety of his removal from the NCC by President Goodluck Jonathan.

The Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation however filed a preliminary objection to challenge the competence of the suit filed by Gwandu.

But Justice E.D. Isele, in his verdict on the objection before delving into the substantive suit, held that the court had the jurisdiction to entertain Gwandu's suit.

The AGF had, in the objection, challenged the commencement of the suit by way of originating summons.

Dismissing the objection of the federal government in his verdict, Justice Isele said, "The commencement of the suit by originating summons has not robbed the court of jurisdiction. The objection is dismissed and I hold that the court has the jurisdiction to hear the suit." The judge further held in his judgement that the defendant failed to address the issue raised by Gwandu in his letter after he was removed from office.

Gwandu had said in a letter after his removal that due process was not followed before he was removed.

The judge then said, "I therefore order that the removal of the claimant (Gwandu) is illegal and a breach of Section 10 of the NCC Act. The removal of the claimant did not follow the due process of law. The defendant is hereby directed to pay the claimant his full salary from 2012 till date. The defendants are also ordered to pay the claimant the sum of N100million as compensation."

Before the court's verdict yesterday, Falana had told the court that his client was removed from office illegally and urged court to set aside his removal from office on the grounds that it offends section 10 of the NCC Act.

Falana further informed the court that his client was not given fair hearing before he was relieved of his post.

The senior advocate said, "This case is anchored on section 10 of the NCC Act. It has to do with the removal of the claimant from office through a letter. That letter offends section 10 of the NCC act.

"Before a commissioner can be removed from office, the President, through the Secretary of the Government of the Federation (SGF) or the Minister of Communication must write to him to defend the allegation against him within 14 days. In this case, the President never wrote to the plaintiff to defend himself.

"We urge the court to grant the reliefs sought by the claimant and dismiss the objection of the defendants."

But the lawyer to the AGF, Mr Mbam P.C., in his argument against the suit, stated that the claims of the plaintiff could not be granted on the grounds that there were many issues that should be proved.

He said, "The only issue in the case is not non-compliance to section 10 of the NCC Act. There are several issues that need to be proved. We urge the court to dismiss the suit and hold that due process was followed in the removal of the plaintiff from office."

Gwandu had in the suit urged the court to take judicial notice of the fact that his removal from office fell short of set procedure.

In particular, Gwandu was removed from office as executive commissioner of the NCC on November 26, 2012, for three major frauds he exposed.

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