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ADAMO GBOLADE ADEKO
IJEBU-ODE DISTRICT COUNCIL
FEDERAL SUPREME COURT OF NIGERIA
27TH APRIL, 1962.
BEFORE THEIR LORDSHIPS
SIR ADETOKUNBO ADEMOLA, C.J.F. (Presided)
EDGAR IGNATIUS GODFREY UNSWORTH, F.J. (Read the Judgment of the Court)
JOHN IDOWU CONRAD TAYLOR, F.J.
ADMINISTRATIVE LAW – Master and Servant – Unlawful dismissal – Breach of natural justice – Justifiable ground for dismissal existing – Whether it vitiates the dismissal.
EMPLOYMENT AND LABOUR – MASTER AND SERVANT – Wrongful dismissal – Allegation of – Breach of natural justice in servant not being given a hearing – Whether the breach vitiates the dismissal even though justifiable ground exists.
NATURAL JUSTICE – Breach of – When it may not vitiate dismissal of an employee by employer.
PRACTICEC AND PROCEDURE – JURISDICTION – High Court – Master and Servant – Dismissal wrongful being in breach of natural justice – Whether that in itself precludes court from finding out if there is justifiable ground for the dismissal.
Ayoola – for the Appellant.
Craig (with him Odiasa) -for Respondent.
UNSWORTH, F.J. (Delivering the Judgment of the Court): This is an appeal from a decision by Charles, J., dismissing a claim by the appellant for £10,000 damages for wrongful dismissal.
The facts are that in 1952 the appellant was appointed as Treasurer of the Ijebu-Ode District Council, and in 1956 his appointment as Treasurer was approved by the Minister of Local Government. It was found by the trial Judge that the appellant was not a member of the Unified Local Government Service, but that the Western Region (Local Government) Staff Regulations, t955, govern the terms of dismissal. It was not suggested in the Court below that the appellant was a non-confirmed employee for the purpose of the Regulations, and I will therefore deal with this appeal on the basis that the appellant was confirmed.
It was discovered in 1958 that there was a deficiency in certain accounts for which the appellant, as Treasurer, was responsible. The appellant was interdicted on the 8th November, 1958, and notice of interdiction was given in accordance with Regulation E.6. The appellant, on the 10th December, 1958 demanded that his interdiction should be terminated, and on the 22nd December he was informed that he had been summarily dismissed. The appellant was later tried, together with another, for an alleged criminal offence arising out of the deficiency previously mentioned. He was acquitted by the Magistrate, and on one of the charges the Magistrate said that the facts did not amount to a crime but at most to an outrageous dereliction of official duties. On the 8th June, 1959 the appellant commenced these proceedings for wrongful dismissal.
The trial Judge evaluated the evidence and came to the conclusion that the facts justified summary dismissal under Regulation 13(3). This Regulation sets out certain specific matters which justify summary dismissal and contains a saving provision in subsection (3) in respect of other acts of misconduct justifying dismissal.
Counsel for the appellant submitted that the appellant, as a confirmed employee, should not have been dismissed without being given an opportunity to be heard, in accordance with the procedure prescribed by Regulation 16. I accept this submission, as I do not think that Regulation 13(3) can be construed as depriving a confirmed employee of his rights under Regulation 16.
Counsel then went on to submit that a failure to comply with the provision of Regulation 16 rendered the dismissal wrongful, and deprived the High Court of jurisdiction to enquire whether there was just cause or excuse for the dismissal. I do not think that there is substance in this contention. The failure to comply with Regulation 16 cannot deprive the Courts of jurisdiction to enquire into the issue of just cause or excuse any more than a compliance with that Regulation would deprive the Courts of the power to consider whether an employee had been dismissed without such cause or excuse. I am satisfied from the record of proceedings in the Court below that there was abundant evidence to establish that there was just cause and excuse for dismissing the appellant on the ground that he had been guilty of misconduct as defined in the Regulations.
I should mention that Regulation 16 provides for dismissal and not for termination after a period of notice. The question of notice does not arise in this case.
For the reasons given above I would dismiss the appeal with costs assessed at 21 guineas.
ADEMOLA, C.J.F.: I concur.
TAYLOR, F.J.: I concur.