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Yissa vs. B.S.J.S.C.

PETER ORBAN YISSA

V

BENUE STATE JUDICIAL SERVICE COMMISSION

COURT OF APPEAL

( JOS DIVISION )

OLUDADE OLADAPO OBADINA JCA ( Presided )

AMIRU SANUSI JCA

IFEYINWA CECILIA NZEAKO JCA ( Read the Lead Judgment )

CA/J/153/2002

THURSDAY, 9 TH DECEMBER,  2004

APPEAL - Omnibus ground of appeal - Allegation that judgment is against weight of evidence - Meaning of

APPEAL - Omnibus ground of appeal - When appeal based on - Duty of appeal court when determining

CRIMINAL LAW AND PROCEDURE - Crime  Person accused of -

Whether can be tried by other tribunal or panel other than court of law

EVIDENCE - Unchallenged or uncontradicted evidence - Duty of court to accept - Exception to

FAIR HEARING - Master-servant relationship - Dismissal of employee - Duty of employer to afford employee fair hearing before dismissing

FAIR HEARING - Natural justice and fair hearing - Rules of - Purport of


FAIR HEARING - Principle of - Connotation and test of

FAIR HEARING - Right to fair hearing - Condition required to satisfy

JUDGMENT AND ORDERS - Judgment is against the weight of evidence - Allegation of - Meaning of

LABOUR LAW - Administrative panels or disciplinary committee Where set up to investigate allegations of misconduct - How expected to act

MASTER AND SERVANT - Administrative or investigatory panel set up by employer to probe allegation against his employee Legality of - Determinant of

MASTER AND SERVANT - Dismissal of employee - Duty on employer to afford employee fair hearing before dismissing

MASTER AND SERVANT - Employee - Where behaves in a manner inimical to discipline and contrary to employer’s laid down rules - Consequence of

MASTER AND SERVANT - Employee working in finance department Disobedience to financial regulations by - Consequence of

MASTER AND SERVANT - Misconduct - Acts of misconduct occuring or suspected to have occurred in employer’s establishment Employer’s power to investigate and to deal with erring employee without going to court

MASTER AND SERVANT - Misconduct bordering on criminality Whether can earn employee summary dismissal without employer going to court

PLEADINGS - Severance of pleadings - Principle of -  Purport and application of

STATUTE - Benue State Judicial Service Commission, Regulation 34(2) - Purport of vis-a-vis appointment of investigation or disciplinary inquiry to try, and discipline an erring judicial officer

STATUTE - Benue State Judicial Service Commission, Regulation 44 Dismissal of judicial officers under - Procedure for WORDS AND PHRASES - ‘Judicial office’ - Meaning of

Issues:

1.              Whether taking into account the pleadings and evidence before the trial court, the appellant established that the taking of N2,000.00 salary advance had the approval of the chief registrar, the respondent’s chief administrative officer empowered to give such approvals.

2.              Whether the Onogwu panel had the lawful authority, competence and jurisdiction to investigate and recommend on the allegation of fraud and payment of salary advance without due authorization contrary to the rules of the respondent in view of the fact that the alleged offences are of a criminal nature.

3.              Whether taking into account the nature of the allegations and the entire circumstances of the appellant’s case, including all the steps taken by the respondent, the appellant can rightly be said to have been given fair hearing in accordance with section 36  of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,  1999 ( section 33 of 1979 then) and the rules of natural justice.

Facts:

The appellant was an employee of the respondent. At the time material to this action, he was a Finance Assistant 1 on salary grade level 06/4.

There was discovery of some fraudulent dealings in the finance department where the appellant worked, wherein there was an inflation of the monthly salary bill by N25,275.41 (twenty-five thousand, two hundred and seventy-five naira, forty-one kobo). An administrative panel was set up to investigate this and other related matters. The appellant was invited by letters dated 5th and 9th January, 1995 to appear before the panel to testify. After proceedings before the panel, it was discovered that the appellant was the emissary who lobbied the chief internal auditor to sign the summary of the duplicated vouchers. It was also discovered that the appellant collected a salary advance of N2,000 (two thousand naira) without the approval of the chief registrar who was the approving authority. The panel recommended that the appellant be posted out of the accounts department and be made to pay back the salary advance.

Thereafter, the respondent issued a query to the appellant to answer to the allegations set out therein; this the appellant did. Another letter was subsequently issued dismissing the appellant from the service of the respondent  for fraud and gross misconduct.

The appellant instituted an action in the High Court of Justice, Makurdi, Benue State, challenging his dismissal. He claimed for an order of reinstatement and injunction. Alternatively, he claimed that his dismissal be converted to retirement and all benefits fully paid with damages. The trial court dismissed the action.

Dissatisfied, the appellant appealed to the Court of Appeal.