Illegal Dismissal: Nigerian minister, permanent secretary face contempt proceeding

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Nigeria’s defence minister, Bashir Magashi, will face a contempt proceeding over the refusal of the army council, which he chairs, to comply with a court judgement to reinstate an illegally dismissed officer, the National Industrial Court has ruled.

Apart from Mr Magashi, the permanent secretary of the defence ministry, Nuratu Batagarawa, will also face a contempt proceeding. Both officials are, respectively, chairman and secretary of the army council.

In the judgement given at the Abuja headquarters of the industrial court on January 14, Rakiya Haastrup had ordered the army council to reinstate Abdulfatai Mohammed, one of the 38 officers compulsorily retired in June 2016.

Most of the officers were illegally dismissed, Newsmen reported based on findings that they were forced out of service without any indictment or query as the law provides.

Six of them, including Mr Mohammed, have now gotten favourable judgements at the industrial court, which ordered the army to reinstate them. The army has not complied, continuing a pattern of disregarding court judgements.

Following the disobedience, Mr Mohammed filed an application for a contempt proceeding against Mr Magashi and Ms Batagarawa in February. Ruling in the case was given last Tuesday but Newsmen just received a copy.

Ibrahim Etsu, the counsel to the respondents, Mr Magashi and Ms Batagarawa, had submitted that the court should reject Mr Mohammed’s application arguing that both officials were not parties to the original suit, “therefore,the Court cannot make an order against them.”

‘Incorrect’

But the judge, Ms Haastrup disagreed. She said that as the respondent, that is the army council, is “an artificial person (that) cannot be physically brought to court and the law cannot operate in a vacuum,” but the principal officers, Mr Magashi and Ms Batagarawa, can be joined in the contempt proceeding, citing Order 63 Rule 6 of the National Industrial Court (Civil procedure) Rules 2017.

“Leave is hereby given to the applicant to commence contempt proceeding against the chairman and secretary of the army council,” Ms Haastrup ruled.

She, however, rejected other prayers for committal proceedings against the two officials and that they should be summoned to explain why they should not be committed to prison for disobeying the court.

She said the necessary procedure had not been followed.

Newsmen recalls that in May, the industrial had permitted Mr Mohammed to initiate committal proceedings against the Chief of Defence Staff, Gabriel Olonisakin, following the general’s refusal to show evidence that he transmitted the illegally dismissed officers’ appeals to President Muhammadu Buhari.

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