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NEPA vs. Ososanya

NATIONAL ELECTRIC POWER AUTHORITY

V

J. S. OSOSANYA & ORS.

SUPREME COURT OF NIGERIA

SALIHU MODIBBO ALFA BELGORE, JSC ( Presided )

UTHMAN MOHAMMED, JSC

ANTHONY IKECHUKWU IGUH, JSC (Read the Lead Judgment)

AKINTOLA OLUFEMI EJIWUNMI, JSC

DAHIRU MUSDAPHER, JSC

SC. 17/2002

FRIDAY, 23RD JANUARY, 2004

EVIDENCE - Decree No. 17 of 1984 - Proof of dismissal/termination of public officer’s employment pursuant to - How established

JUDGMENT AND ORDERS - ‘Perverse’ decision - Meaning and effect of

JURISDICTION - Ouster of jurisdiction clause - Operations and effect of under Decree 17 of 1984

STATUTE - Public Officers (Special Provisions) Decree No. 17 of 1984 Operations of and appropriate authority thereunder

STATUTE - Public Officers (Special Provisions) Decree No. 17 of 1984 Ouster of jurisdiction clause therein - Operations and effect of

STATUTE - Public Officers (Special Provisions) Decree No. 17 of 1984 Proof of dismissal/termination of public officer’s employment pursuant to - How established

WORDS AND PHRASES - ‘Perverse’ decision - Meaning and effect of

Issue:

Whether the learned justices of the Court of Appeal were right in holding that the dismissal/termination of appointment letters issued to the respondents were not written pursuant to Public Officers ( Special Provisions) Decree No. 17 of 1984 and as such the trial court had jurisdiction to entertain the respondents’ claim.

Facts:

On or about the 5th of August, 1994, the respondents, 271 (two hundred and seventy-one) in all and all employees of the appellant called out workers of the appellant on strike, allegedly under the aegis of an unregistered trade union known as Workers’ Welfare Association (WWA). They forced their way into some of the appellant’s power stations and in the process, damaged some of the equipments and thereby threw some parts of the country into total darkness. This was reported to the then Head of State, General Sani Abacha (deceased) who acting pursuant to the provisions of the Public Officers (Special Provisions) Decree No. 17 of 1984 directed the Minister of Mines and Power or any official of the appellant so delegated to dismiss/terminate the respondents’ appointments. Pursuant to this and acting on a letter dated 9th August, 1994 written by the Minister to the Management of the appellant, the appointment of the respondents were terminated. The letters of dismissal/termination of appointment were signed by the personnel officer of the appellant.

Aggrieved, the respondents in 2 (two) separate actions filed at the Federal High Court, Lagos, challenged the dismissal/termination of their appointments. Learned counsel to the appellant filed notices of preliminary objection in the two (2) suits asserting therein that the dismissal/termination of employment having been effected pursuant to Decree No. 17 of 1984, the court had no jurisdiction to entertain any suit in respect of same. The trial court overruled this objection holding inter alia that there was no proof before the court that the appellant acted pursuant to the Decree. The appellant’s consolidated appeal to the Court of Appeal also failed. The appellant further appealed to the Supreme Court .

In determining the appeal, the Supreme Court considered the provisions of sections 1(1), 3(3), (4) and 4(2) of the Public Officers (Special Provisions) Decree No. 17 of 1984, which provides as follows:

“1(1) Notwithstanding anything to the contrary in any law, the appropriate authority if satisfied that:-

(a)           it is necessary to do so in order to facilitate improvement in the organisation of the department or service to which a public officer belongs; or

(b)          by reason of age or ill health or due to any other cause, a public officer has been inefficient in the performance of his duties, or

(c)           the public officer has been engaged in corrupt practice or has in any way corruptly enriched himself or any

other person; or

(d)          the general conduct of a public officer in relation to the performance of his duties has been such that his further or continued employment in the relevant service would not be in the public interest.

The appropriate authority may at any time after 31st December, 1983-

(i)            dismiss or remove the Public Officer summarily from his office, or

(ii)          retire or require the Public Officer to compulsorily retire from the relevant public service.”

“4(2) In the operation of this Act, the appropriate authority -

(a)           in respect of any office which was held for the purposes of any State, shall be the Military Governor of that State or any person authorised by him; and

(b)           in any other case, shall be the President or any person authorised by him or the Armed Forces Ruling Council.”

“3(3) No civil proceedings shall lie or be instituted in any court for or on account of or in respect of any act, matter or thing done or purported to be done by any person under this Decree or if any such proceedings have been or are instituted before, on or after the making of this Decree, the proceedings shall abate, be discharged and made void.

3(4) Chapter IV of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is hereby suspended for the purposes of this Decree and the question whether any provision thereof has been, is being or would be contravened by anything done or purported or proposed to be done in pursuance of this Decree shall not be enquired in any court of Law”.