The Ebonyi state government’s decision to indefinitely suspend Dr. Cletus Nwakpu, who was serving as the coordinator of the World Bank-assisted FADAMA III project, has been overturned by the National Industrial Court.

The state’s FADAMA initiatives, which were funded by the World Bank, were supervised by Nwakpu, a civil servant.

But on July 14, 2020, the state administration, which was led by David Umahi, suspended him indefinitely on charges of theft and financial misappropriation.

In his role as state coordinator, Nwakpu has begun carrying out the tasks outlined in the subsidiary credit agreement (SCA) between the World Bank and the government of Ebonyi state on the development of the Fadama III project.

While the Ebonyi State Fadama III Project had only N3 million in her account in 2019, he uncovered evidence of a plot and forgeries of documents and signatures by several project officers that allegedly bilked the project out of N2,750,000.

After Nwakpu went to the police with the information, they investigated and ultimately brought criminal charges against all parties involved; in the meantime, he was indefinitely removed from the project.

Prosecutor Ndubisi Ogbuinya from the Ebonyi State Ministry of Justice Abakaliki was transferred to the Ohaozara Judicial Division by the Ebonyi State Government on December 3, 2020, following Mr. Nwakpu’s indefinite suspension.

Because Ogbuniaya was absent from court on December 10, 2020, the two defendants’ case was thrown out in Abakaliki Magistrate Court II.

Nwakpu, who thought he had been unjustifiably persecuted and shamed out of office through illegal politically motivated maneuverings, proceeded to court to seek restitution after multiple announcements by former Governor Dave Umahi that the indefinite ban on Nwakpu would be lifted, but it never materialized.

Therefore, he sued the Ebonyi State Government and six others in connection with the conspiracy on January 11, 2022.

Participating in the proceedings are the following individuals: the Ebonyi State Fiscal Responsibility Commission, its former secretary, Mrs. Ijeoma Orji-Uzo; Emeka Nwode, who was the chairman of the Ebonyi State EXCO investigative Committee; Barr. Samuel Okoronkwo, his secretary; and Mr. Augustine Njoku of Kudos Ventures, an input supplier at the National Industrial Court of Nigeria Abakaliki. Mr. Nwode is also a member of the group.

The fourteen reliefs that Dr. Nwakpu requested from the court were the following: the reversal of his unlawful indefinite suspension; his reinstatement to his position as Fadama Coordinator; and the repayment of his wage arrears from July 2020 to July 2023.

Furthermore, he requested that the defendants pay him N500 million as damages for the egregious breach of his rights as a senior and confirmed public/civil servant who was unlawfully and maliciously suspended.

He claimed he went through a lot of emotional and financial pain as a result of the sack and the media’s coverage of it. He also suffered from character defamation, lost job prospects, harassment, and public humiliation.

In his ruling on Friday in Enugu’s case number. NICN/ABK/08/2022, Justice Oluwakayode Arowosegbe ruled that the State Government had breached the Claimant’s entitlement to a fair hearing.

Additionally, he ruled that the defendants had not shown sufficient justification for Mr. Nwakpu’s indefinite suspension.

He described the claimant’s prolonged suspension as constructive dismissal and ruled that there was no valid grounds to suspend him without pay.

The judge went on to criticize the state government for allegedly criminally suspending the claimant for more than three years without actually prosecuting him.

He pointed out that the claimant should have been brought to court to substantiate his charges before the state government could have suspended or fired him without pay.

The state government or its agencies do not have the authority to prosecute or judge an employee for a suspected criminal offense, Justice Arowosegbe added.

As a result, the court ruled that Mr. Nwakpu’s suspension was illegal, meaningless, and of no effect.

It ruled that the State Governor, Ebonyi State Executive Council, Ebonyi State Fiscal Responsibility Commission, and the State Head of Service had acted unlawfully and erroneously in their attempts to suspend or dismiss Mr. Nwakpu.

The state government was ordered by the judge to pay the claimant all of his salaries that have been withheld up until this point.

In addition, he paid the claimant N500,000 to cover legal fees and N5 million in damages.

According to Claimant’s lawyer Jeremiah Ezenyi, the ruling will improve relations between the government and the workforce.

He characterized the ruling as a “very good one” because it clarifies the process for firing an employee and shows that “you don’t just wake up and technically sack your employee,” which is important information for both the government and employees.

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