Industrial Court Reverses Wike, Reinstates Sacked Permanent Secretaries

Six of the 14 permanent secretaries sacked by the Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, in 2015 have been reinstated into the state civil service by the National Industrial Court (NIC) sitting in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State capital on Friday.

The court declared their removal and compulsorily retirement by the governor as unconstitutional, ultra vires, null and void.

The six permanent secretaries to be reinstated are Samuel Woka, Kadibo Brown, Nuka Nwikpasi, Orlu Auguatine, Minabelem Weai and Ngozi Abu.

Justice Bashar Alkali who presided over the case held that the state government overstepped its constitutional bounds by treating the civil servants as if they were his political appointees.

The judge first dismissed the submission of the lawyer to the defendants that the court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the matter and that the matter should be dismissed, following the decision of the claimants, who were not employed on the same day, to join the case.

The judge held that the court had jurisdiction to adjudicate over the case which he said was correctly instituted since despite their different dates of employment, the permanent secretaries had shown the existence of common grievances.

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On whether the governor had the right to compulsorily retire the permanent secretaries, Alkali, who cited many judicial precedents, said the claimants were civil servants under industry rules and not under the whims and caprices of the governor.

He said as civil servants, the permanent secretaries were employed under the civil service regulations to work for 35 years before retirement or quit after attaining 60 years of age, adding that compulsory retirement only applies when a public servant is indicted of wrongdoing, which must be handled by the civil service commission through an established procedure.

Alkali said though the governor had powers based on Section 281 of the 1999 Constitution to appoint a permanent secretary, he lacked the power to remove and retire such public servant without recourse to the established procedure in the civil service.

“Civil servants cannot be removed at will without compliance to the rules. If they governor doesn’t want them as permanent secretaries, they should be returned to the service as directors.”

The 14 permanent secretaries involved were removed and compulsorily retired by Governor Wike in a statement issued by his government in November 2015, 14, and they had approached the National Industrial Court to declare the action of the governor as illegal and unconstitutional.

Adiaha Idemette:
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