Justice Mojisola Olatoregun of the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos yesterday ordered the Managing Director of Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC), Fidet Okhiria to appear before the court on February 21, or risk arrest.
Justice Olatoregun threaten to issue a warrant of arrest against Okhiria for refusing to appear in court to face a committal proceeding filed against him by a former employee of the Nigeria Railway Corporation, Benedict O. Iheakam.
Iheakam counsel, Johnson Esezoobo (counsel to judgment creditor) had asked the court for an order committing to prison, the Managing Director of the NRC, Engineer Fidet Okhiria and the Company Secretary/Legal Adviser, Canise Oklahoma for their alleged refusal to comply with court order for over 14 years ago.
Justice Dan Abutu had in a suit marked as FHC/L/CS/926/95 ordered the reinstatement of Iheakam to his employment and the payment of his entitlements.
At the resumed hearing of the case on Thursday, Opeyemi Igbayiloye (counsel to the 2nd respondent judgment debtor) informed the court of his meetings with Esezoobo but did not file any document before the court as regards.
“At the last proceedings, the court directed that our client should show cause why he did not comply with court order. It is unfortunate that we did not have documentary evidence that there is a cause to resolve the matter and comply with order of court.”
In his response, Esezoobo confirmed the meetings and told court that its direction was to a person not company. He said, the legal adviser approached me this morning that their MD was out of town. He is in China.”
Justice Olatoregun therefore asked if Okihiria is bigger that the law, saying “Order of the court must be obeyed always. He must not show himself to be above the law. Is he too big to appear in court? I give him a week to obey the court.”
She therefore adjourned till February 21, 2018 for him to appear in court.
It would be recalled that, Justice Abutu had delivered judgment on February 18, 2003 that Iheakam, a Principal Technical Officer’s purported retirement letter dated, November 1,1994 is contrary to the contract of employment and is therefore unlawful, null and void.
The judge held that the company had in 1992, nominated Iheakam as one of those to attend three months Commonwealth sponsored course in Zambia.
“During the period of three months, they were given USD$500 per month. The total amount for the three months was USD$1,500 U.S, given to them in Zambia currency.
They were not given estacode, but were orally told that on their return to Nigeria, they would be paid all entitlements.
“I have carefully perused the standard conditions of service of the defendant, which govern the appointment of the plaintiff admitted as exhibit 2 in this case and I am unable to see any provision thereof, which permits the retirement of an employee for no reason.
“I hold that the retirement of the plaintiff is invalid, null and void. The plaintiff is entitled to continue to have right to be treated as an employee of the defendant, notwithstanding his purported retirement vide letter dated 1st November 1994 admitted as Exhibit 11A in this case.
“The defendant is hereby ordered to reinstate the plaintiff forthwith to his employment and to restore him to his rank as Principal Technical Officer 1(Metal) with full salary and all entitlements from October 1994 to the date of judgment herein.
“The sum of USD $21,285, being the total of estacode allowance for 93 days is hereby awarded for the plaintiff to be paid by the defendants,” the judge ordered.
However, since February 18, 2003 the management of NRC refused to reinstate the plaintiff or pay his entitlements, not withstanding that they lost in all their applications to appeal the judgment from 2005 to 2014 when the last application was struck out for incompetence.
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