Alex Enumah in Abuja
The National Industrial Court in Abuja yesterday has ordered the reinstatement of Maj. Gen. Ijioma Nwokoro Ijioma in the Nigerian Army.
Ijioma was one of the 38 officers of the Nigerian Army retired in June 2016.
Delivering judgment, Justice Edith Agbakoba, held that there was evidence that due process was not followed in the compulsory retirement of the claimant.
She held that he was not informed about his offence and neither was he tried before a court martial for any offence before his compulsory retirement.
Agbakoba also held that the claimant was not accorded fair hearing by not giving him opportunity to defend himself.
She therefore, declared that the compulsory retirement was wrongful, illegal, null, void and of no effect.
She also declared that the claimant was still a staff of the Nigerian Army.
The judge further set aside the letter of the compulsory retirement dated June 9, 2016.
Agbakoba also ordered reinstatement of the claimant to his position with payment of all entitlements and privileges accrued to him.
The judge equally directed that the defendants, their agents were restrained from stopping, interfering or victimising the claimant.
She concluded by awarding the sum of N200,000 in favour of the claimant as cost of prosecuting the suit.
Joined in the suit as co-defendants were the Chief of Army Staff, Minister of Defence, and the Chief of Defence Staff.
The general approached the court, seeking redress and several reliefs among which was reinstatement, stating that his compulsory retirement did not follow due process and procedure as stipulated by the Armed Forces Act for an officer of his status.
He argued that because his retirement did not follow due process, he consequently sought for court declaration to declare it as illegal, invalid, wrongful, unlawful, unconstitutional, null, void and of no effect whatsoever.
He also prayed that the court compel the defendants jointly and severally to pay him the sum of N1 billion as general, aggravated, punitive and exemplary damages for the unlawful, wrongful, illegal, unconstitutional and oppressive compulsory retirement.
The N1 billion, he argued was also for the attendant humiliation, psychological trauma, mental agony and odium caused him and his family, by the actions of the defendants.
Counsel for the first and fourth defendants, Dare Owolabi had earlier before the judgment accused the court’s staff of bias in their dealings with him.
Counsel to the claimant, Godwin Iyinbor said there was no justifiable reason for the claimant’s early compulsory retirement as he had not attained the mandatory retirement age nor had he served the army for 35 years as stipulated in the army.
Iyinbor said the retirement age for Major Generals was 56 years and the claimant was only 53 years as at the time of the retirement, and had only served for 32 years, 11 months and five days, as against the mandatory 35 years of service for retirement as provided for by Rule 020810 of the Federal Government Public Service Rules, which is also applicable to the military.
Ijioma, in his statement of claims, stated that on June 10, 2016, while at work, he got a text message from one Lt.Col. S.O.G. Aremu, Staff Officer to the Military Secretary in charge of recruitment, deployment, appointment informing him that the Army Council, which sat on June 9, 2016, had retired him.
He said he later got another letter that the Army Council at its meeting of June 9, 2016, approved his compulsory retirement from the Nigerian Army, with effect from June 9, 2016, pursuant to the provisions of Paragraph 09.02c(4) of the Harmonised Terms and Conditions of Service.
He said the compulsory retirement, according to the letter, was done on disciplinary ground bordering on serious offence.
Ijioma further said no proceeding was held to try him, adding that no verdict was given, neither was there any record of proceedings compiled and transmitted, with the verdict to Army Council, for ratification.
The claimant claimed further that he was never given any charge in the prescribed Form AB 252, which was the means of reporting an offence against service personnel.