The Abuja National Industrial Court has ordered the reinstatement of Mohammed Dauda as the head of National Intelligence Agency and payment of salaries and entitlements from March 2018 till date after it found that his dismissal fell short of the NIA Act.
Mr Dauda, who was sacked in 2018, was also awarded N1 million in compensation, filings of the judgement published by the court on Friday showed.
The former Nigerian ambassador to Chad challenged his removal in court, saying his dismissal from service did not follow due process and was wrongful.
He argued that in contravention of the law, no special management staff disciplinary committee (SMSDC) was set up to investigate the charges against him, and he was not given fair hearing afterwards.
But the agency argued that Mr Dauda was never appointed as the interim head of the agency. Rather, being the most senior director at the time, he was only "appointed to coordinate the agency's activities at that time," court filings showed.
It further said that it did not compose the management staff disciplinary committee as required by the law because as of January 15, 2018, NIA had no deputy director.
Being the most senior officer and because the service law forbade any senior management staffer from appearing before their subordinates in disciplinary proceedings, the agency told the court that it resorted to the "doctrine of necessity."
By that, it constituted a disciplinary committee of retired directors, "all senior to the claimant (Mr Dauda) in rank," including a representative of the legal department as judge advocate.
The court, however, voided this decision in its ruling on Friday.
In the judgment delivered by Justice Olufunke Anuwe, it was held that, under the agency's rule, the appropriate committee to investigate disciplinary cases against management staff is the management staff disciplinary committee, "not the special management staff disciplinary committee".
"The fact that the appropriate committee under the agency regulation was not set up in the first place defeats the defendants' reliance on necessity in the composition of the special management staff disciplinary committee," the court filing read.
"The foregoing shows that the reliance placed by the defendants on agency Regulation to justify the dismissal of the claimant is self-defeating.
"From the evidence before me, the committee that investigated the case against the claimant and recommended his dismissal from service is not the senior staff disciplinary committee. The composition of that committee is also not as prescribed in the instrument."
Sack to reinstatement
Before becoming the interim head of the NIA, Nigeria's spy agency tasked with overseeing foreign intelligence and counterintelligence operations, Mr Dauda was Nigeria's ambassador to Chad, Nigeria's border country in the North-east and ally in the war against Boko Haram war.
He was deployed from the Nigerian embassy in N'Djamena, the Chadian capital, in October 2017, to come and serve as the acting head of the NIA after the erstwhile head, Ayodele Oke, was suspended.
Mr Oke was asked to step aside as authorities investigated a huge cash haul of about $43 million belonging to the NIA that was uncovered at an Ikoyi apartment in April 2017.
Mr Dauda acted as head of the security agency from November 2017 to January 2018, when he was replaced by an aide to President Muhammadu Buhari, Ahmed Rufai Abubakar.
Mr Dauda reportedly heard of his replacement over the news, PREMIUM TIMES learnt, and it turned out he was a victim of an enormous power play between the national security adviser, Babagana Monguno, and Abba Kyari, the late chief of staff of the president.
Meanwhile, his appointment started on frosty note because Mr Monguno, to whom he was to report to, was not consulted, PREMIUM TIMES learnt.
This newspaper gathered that Mr Monguno was eyeing another candidate for the job when he heard of the appointment, which he believed he ought to have a hand in determining.
Mr Dauda would last few months on the job before he was axed, after which he was asked to return to his post in N'Djamena.
He declined, saying his life would be in danger in Chad and anywhere else as his cover as a security spy has been blown having led the NIA, sources ealier told PREMIUM TIMES.
Meanwhile, he had earlier given, at separate times, damning testimonies before a House of Representatives committee and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission against members of a panel raised by President Buhari to recommend ways of repositioning the NIA.
Members of the panel, led by a former secretary to the government of the federation, Babagana Kingibe, denied wrongdoing, saying Mr Dauda was only trying to get back at them because he felt they were responsible for his removal.
The diplomat, thereafter, slipped into hiding as he claimed his life was in danger following the testimony.
Not pleased with his removal, he challenged his removal in court, which ruled in his favour on Friday.