Alleged unlawful suspension: Court fixes July 26 for OGFZAA to open defence

The National Industrial Court sitting in Abuja has fixed July 26 for Oil and Gas Free Zone Authority Administration (OGFZAA) to open its defence in the alleged unlawful suspension preferred against it by Funmilayo Omosule.

Justice Olufunke Anuwe adjourned the matter after counsel for the agency, Michael Ajara, informed that he had just filed an amended statement of defence and sought the court order to deem it as being properly filed.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that while Omosule is the claimant, OGFZAA, a Federal Government agency, is the defendant.

NAN reports that Omosule, the sole witness in the suit, had, on June 2, testified against the agency over his alleged unlawful suspension.

The judge then adjourned the matter until July 18 for the defendant to open its defence.

But at the resumed trial on Monday, Ajara acknowledged that though the matter was adjourned for the OGFZAA to open its defence, he said he had decided to amend the defence statement due to circumstance beyond his control.

“In the last adjourned date, we applied for a certified true copy (CTC) of the originating process of the proceedings (of the sister case) at the Federal High Court to be tendered and we were only issued that CTC on 14th of July, Thursday.

“That is why we plan to amend our statement of defence,” he said.

The lawyer, however, said that he had already filed a motion for amendment of statement of defence and that a copy of it had been served on the claimant (Omosule)’s counsel earlier in the day.

He, therefore, craved for the indulgence of the court and the claimant to move the motion.

Omosule’s lawyer, Kelechi Uzoanya, who said that Ajara served her with a copy of the motion same day, expressed concern over the development.

Uzoanya, who held the brief for Tunji Abayomi, said she observed that there were differences in the proposed amended application served on her and the amended copy.

But Ajara said the two applications were the same only that all the accompanied documents were not attached to the proposed amended motion served on the claimant.

Uzoanya then said she would not oppose the motion for amendment in order not to waste the time of the court on the matter, especially when the court had already ordered an accelerated hearing of the case.

She, however, informed that the lead counsel, Mr Abayomi, said he would need to study the application before taking his decision whether to proceed with the matter or respond to the motion filed.

Justice Anuwe, who granted the leave for the defendant to amend in line with the proposed copy, also deemed the application as being properly filed.

The judge subsequently adjourned the matter until July 26 for the defendant to open its defence

NAN reports that Omosule and OGFZAA had been locked in a fierce legal battle to resolve the legality or otherwise of the claimant’s suspension, following his petition against some management staff of the agency on alleged corruption.

OGFZAA had, via a letter dated April 18, 2011, suspended Omosule as the manager of its Abuja office on the grounds that he had refused to comply with its letter dated Dec. 3, 2010, which had directed him to present the originals of his credentials for verification.

Omosule, however, refuted the claim of the authority, stating that he made available to the defendant Certified True Copies (CTCs) of his educational certificates/credentials, including GCE ‘O Level certificates and degree certificates as instructed.

Omosule had claimed that the originals of his credentials were misplaced in untraceable circumstances as at 2010 when the report to submit originals was made.

The claimant also averred that the CTCs of his certificates submitted to the defendant were certified by the issuing institutions, which included the West African Examination Council and the University of Ado-Ekiti, then Ondo State University, Ado Ekiti, respectively.

The claimant is seeking the court‘s declaration that he was still a staff of the organisation and entitled to all the rights, privileges and benefits due to him by reason of his employment.

He is praying the court for an order directing the defendant to reinstate him to the position of a director, on grade level 17, a position he claimed his contemporaries were holding currently.

Omosule is equally seeking the order of the court to direct the defendant to pay all his outstanding salaries, benefits and entitlement since 2011.

In addition, he is asking the court to order the defendant to pay him the sum of N50 million as exemplary and general damages.(NAN)