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Jombo v. Petroleum Equalisation Fund

MR. A. S. JOMBO (J. P.)

V

PETROLEUM EQUALISATION FUND & ORS.

COURT OF APPEAL

( ABUJA  DIVISION )

DAHIRU MUSDAPHER, JCA (Presided)

M. S. MUNTAKA-COOMASSIE, JCA ( Read the Lead Judgment )

ALBERT GBADEBO ODUYEMI, JCA

CA/A/86/M/99

THURSDAY, 26TH OCTOBER, 2000

CONSTITUTIONAL LAW - Arms of Government -Legislative and judiciary -  Respective roles of

CONSTITUTIONAL LAW - Judicial powers of the Federation of Nigeria Where vested - Section 6, 1979 Constitution

JURISDICTION - Issue of jurisdiction - How determined - What court must look at

JURISDICTION - Ouster of jurisdiction - Need for express legislative provision

LABOUR LAW -  Master and servant - ‘Dismissal with immediate effect’ Meaning of

LABOUR LAW - Master and servant - Dismissal - When same takes effect

PUBLIC OFFICER - Removal of public officer - Methods of - How done under Public Officers (Special Provisions) Decree No. 17 of 1984

STATUTE - Public Officers (Special Provisions) Decree no. 17 of  1984 Purport of  - Retrospective nature of

STATUTE - Retrospective legislation - Presumption against

WORDS AND PHRASES - ‘Dismissal with immediate effect’ - Meaning of

WORDS AND PHRASES - ‘Public Officer’ - Meaning of

Issue:

Whether the trial court was right to have declined jurisdiction to entertain the suit

Facts:

The appellant was a staff and until the 28th day of July, 1998, the General Manager (operations) with the 1st respondent.  On or about the 16 th day of February, 1998. The Executive Secretary to the 1st respondent issued and caused to be served on the appellant an internal memo reference number PEF/PER/S.22 with an allegation of dereliction of duty.

The appellant, 6 days after, on or about 23rd day of February, 1998, vide an internal memo, responded to the allegation of dereliction of duty and outlined the problem and proffered and or suggested solutions to same.

On the 2nd day of March, 1998, a query was served on the appellant vide an internal memorandum signed by the Executive Secretary of the 1st respondent.

On the 4th day of March, 1998, after the receipt of the appellant’s response to the query, appellant was suspended from office on the approval of the 2nd respondent, the Hon. Minister of Petroleum Resources.

A Committee was set up to investigate the appellant’s alleged insurbordination and gross misconduct.  This, along with his suspension, was communicated to the appellant vide a letter reference No. PEF/S/22/ CON/T.  The appellant, on the 19th day of March, 1998, was summoned to appear before a disciplinary committee set up by the 1st respondent on the approval of the 2nd respondent.  The appellant did appear before the committee on 20th day of March, 1998, and on the 28th day of July 1998, vide a letter reference number PEF/S.22/T/18, the appellant’s appointment with the 1st respondent was terminated.

On 31st July, 1998, the appellant filed an action at the Federal High Court against all the respondents, seeking, amongst other reliefs, “a declaration that the purported termination of plaintiff’s appointment from the service of the Petroleum Equalization Fund (Management) Board is illegal, unconstitutional, null and void for non-compliance with the Federal Government guidelines and/or circulars on discipline and section 33 of Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) which guarantees the plaintiff’s right to fair hearing.”

On or about the 14  of April, 1999, the respondents purportedly converted the appellant’s termination to dismissal under Decree No. 17 of 1984 , nine months after the appellant commenced this action at the Federal High Court, Abuja.  The respondents then brought an application before the court, challenging the court’s jurisdiction, which court after considering the counter-affidavit, declined jurisdiction. Aggrieved by the ruling of the Federal High Court, the appellant appealed to the Court of Appeal.