The National Industrial Tribunal of Nigeria (NICN), sitting in Yenagoa, the capital of Bayelsa State, ordered the Federal University, Otuoke to pay the sum of N3,664,119.00 as the total sum owed to a lecturer, Dr. Etumudon Asien, for his surplus allocations from 2013 to 2017.
The court also ruled that the university should pay him 30% interest per annum on the sum due from October 2019 until the debt is liquidated and N500,000 in damages.
The Presiding Judge of the Court, Judge B. A Alkali, stated on all available evidence, both documentary and oral, that he was satisfied that the plaintiff was entitled to earn his overwork compensation from 2003 to 2017.
The plaintiff, Dr. Etumudon Asien, a lecturer at the Federal University of Otuoke, had, in action No. NICN/YEN/54/2019, filed a complaint pursuant to Order 3, Rule 2, of the National Labor Court of Nigeria (Civil Proceedings) Rules 2017 on 13 November 2019.
Among other things, the plaintiff requested the court to adjudicate against the defendant, “that the sum of N3,662,119.00 (three million six hundred sixty-two thousand one hundred nineteen naira) being only my earned income allowance for Excess Workload for 2013/2014, 2014/2015, 2015/2016, and 2016/2017 Academic Sessions recently approved and paid by the Federal Government, respectively, which the Respondent refused to pay me.”
Delivering judgment on Friday, Judge Alkali said it was disturbing and despicable that the defendant (FUO) used the lecturer for work and refused to pay him, adding that he was employed by the federal government by the through the university and not through the Academic Staff Union. of Universities.
He said, “Even more, Respondent, being an academic institution, cannot operate without personnel who will carry out its duties. Plaintiff is an employee of Respondent, not ASUU.
“A clinical reading of Exhibit DW001, specifically a letter signed by the Director of Higher Education, reveals that the Federal Government released the sum of N25 billion for Federal Universities from 2009 to 2016.
“It is never disputed that the plaintiff is a member of the defendant’s academic staff. DW1 said during cross-examination that each university submitted its claims to the federal government before the excess stipends earned were paid and the claims were based on the number of those who submitted their Earned Excess Allowance forms The Claimant, not being a member of the ASUU, submitted his forms to Godfrey Okon who was appointed by the Bursar to collect the forms from non-ASUU members.
“Following the foregoing, I am firmly of the view that not being a member of ASUU cannot be a premise to render the applicant ineligible to claim his earned excess workload allowances for 2013/2014, 2014/2015, 2015/2016 and 2016/ Academic sessions 2017.
“It is disturbing and indeed despicable that the defendant, having used the plaintiff for work, then reclaimed his right from the federal government, only to turn around to deny the plaintiff his hard-earned right. This is the height of wickedness and clan spirit.
“Overall, I find that the Claimant has proven his case to entitle him to the remedies sought, I grant the Claimant’s remedies as follows:
“Firstly, I order the defendants to pay the plaintiff the sum of 3,664,119.00 Naira (Three Million Six Hundred Sixty Four Thousand One Hundred Nineteen Naira) being only the Plaintiff’s earned income allowance for the burden of excess work for 2013/2014, 2014/2015, 2015/2016, and 2016/2017 Academic Sessions respectively recently approved and paid by the federal government, which the defendant refused to pay the plaintiff.
“Secondly, I award the sum of N500,000 (Five Hundred Thousand Naira) solely as general damages for unlawfully withholding the allowance earned by the Claimant.
“Thirdly, I award 30% interest per annum on the sum due from October 2019 until the liquidation of the debt. Without prejudice to the defendant’s right of appeal against the judgment of this Court, I order that all terms of this judgment be complied with within 30 days. Judgment is entered accordingly.”
In his reaction to the judgment, the plaintiff’s attorney, Barrister Charles Onyebukwa, said he was delighted with the epic judgment, saying he was not surprised at the outcome given the documentary evidence.
He said: “It’s very good judgment, everyone should know what the judgment would look like because you can’t use someone to work and refuse to pay their allowance.
“The university is known for some of these cases, I’ve won over six inconvenient lawsuits against them over some anomalies and there are more lawsuits against them. It’s reckless.”