By Glory Abuh-Adejoh
The National Industrial Court on Monday ordered the Police Service Commission ( PSC), to pay retired AIG Mbu Joseph Mbu, the sum of N40 million as general damages.
The payment as ordered by justice Osatohanmwen Obaseki-Osaghae, was for the unlawful retirement of Mbu before he attained the mandatory age of 60 years.
” I hold that the claimant’s premature retirement through a press release on July 2, 2016 is unlawful, unconstitutional, null and void and of no effect”.
The court in addition set aside the purported retirement and declared that the claimant remained an officer of the Nigeria Police Force ( NPF), until he attained the mandatory retirement age of 60 on May 10, 2018.
Furthermore, the court ordered the defendant to pay Mbu his salaries, allowances and entitlement from July 2, 2016 when he was retired until May 10, 2018 when he ought to have retired having attained 60 years.
The judge while delivering the judgment ordered that the sum of N750,000 be paid to the claimant as cost of the suit, stating that failure of the defendant to comply with the orders of the court within 30 days will attract a 10 per cent interest per annum.
The court, however, declined the relief of promotion to the position of a DIG and reinstatement sought by the claimant.
This, the court explained cannot be sustained as the claimant had reached the mandatory retirement age on May 10, 2018 when the suit was pending.
From facts, the claimant, Mbu instituted the suit against the commission over his alleged compulsory retirement on July 2, 2016, when he was the commandant of the Police Staff College.
In his statement of facts, he stated that he was born May 10, 1958, and joined the police on Dec. 11, 1985, and had not reached the mandatory retirement age of 60, nor had he spent 35 years in service before he was retired in 2016.
The claimant had therefore sought, amongst other reliefs, an order of the court to invalidate his retirement, which he claimed was done via a press release as he was never served statutory notice of retirement.
He also sought for an order of the court directing the defendant to pay his salaries, allowances and other entitlements from July 2016 to 2018, when he would have been due for retirement.
He also sought for payment of his terminal benefits, N500 million as general damages and N20 million as cost of the suit.
The defendant on its part through processes stated that the claimant was not retired through press release, but that he was pulled out from the force in a ceremonial event.
The defendant equally averred that promotion in the force is not automatic and that the claimant did not meet some of the requirements for promotion.
According to the defendant the reorganisation in NPF at the time of the claimant’s retirement followed due process and the claimant was not the only person affected.
The court in its judgment stated that although the defendant abandoned it case by failing to show up in court to conduct its defence, the action did not exonerate the claimant from the burden to proof his case.
The judge submitted that pleadings are not synonymous to evidence as the defendant was never in court regardless of several hearing notices served.
Obaseki-Osaghae in addition stated that the defendant was deemed to have abandoned its case as the claimant’s submissions were not contested.
She said that the claimant having proven his case on its strength through credible evidence without relying on the weakness of the defendant’s, was entitled to some of the reliefs he sought.