The National Industrial Court (NIC) has ordered the Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, to pay the former Director of Human Resources and Administration in the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Mrs. Salamatu Umar-Eluwa, the sum of N2m as damages over her deployment to Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) last year.
The court also granted an order directing Umar-Eluwa to resume her office as Director, Human Resources and Administration in FAAN with immediate effect.
The court declared that Sirika, as a Minister in the sector, lacked the powers to transfer or post anyone out of any parastatal to a sister agency. The court further ordered him to pay the fined sum within 60 days.
The judgment was delivered last Thursday in Abuja by Justice Zaynab M. Bashir.
The court also said that there was no provision in the FAAN Act or in the Civil Aviation Act that empowered the 1st defendant (Sirika) to carry out inter-agency posting; it declared her posting to AIB as null and void.
The court submitted that since Umar-Eluwa did not consent to the purported transfer to AIB, this made the transfer contrary to the Labour Act of Nigeria — one that would not be allowed to stand.
Umar-Eluwa had filed the case on May 3, 2018, few days after her redeployment to AIB.
The judge said: “…I have painstakingly read the entire sections of the two Acts and as asserted by the learned SAN, On the whole, I find no provision in the FAAN, Act nor in the Civil Aviation Act, which empowers the 1st Defendant to carry out inter-agency posting.
“Consequently, I resolve issue two in favour of the Claimant (Salamatu) to the effect that having regards to extant Rules or Law, namely; Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria Act, Cap F5 LFN 2004, Civil Aviation Act 2006, Guide to Administrative Procedures in the Federal Public Service and the Public Service Rules, the 1st Defendant is not empowered by the provisions of the enabling laws or extant laws to carry out inter-Agency posting/transfer of the Claimant from FAAN to AIB.
“Consequently, it is the holding of this Court that the act of the 1st Defendant, having not been brought under any Act or Law, is ultra vires and falls outside the scope of the Public Officers Protection Act and therefore this suit is not statute barred.
“With regards to Relief (h), I must state that the Claimant has not specifically stated the amount of her salary, however, it must be categorically stated that the employment before the court is one with statutory flavour and upon the inter-agency posting/transfer of the Claimant having been declared invalid, null and void, it is as if the Claimant never left her post of employment with FAAN.
“In that light, relief is granted to the extent that a general damages of N2,000,000.00 is awarded in favour of the Claimant and against the Defendant to be paid within 60 days from today."
It would be recalled that Sirika, through FAAN, had in April 2017 redeployed, engaged and employed no fewer than 55 staff in the agency.
The most prominent name on the list the was Umar-Eluma, who was moved from her post as the Director, Human Resources, FAAN to (AIB in the same capacity.
Umar-Eluma had been having a running battle with the Managing Director of FAAN, Engr. Saleh Dunoma, in the past two years while attempts to post her out of the agency in the past had always been unsuccessful.
Earlier in 2017, attempts to move Umar-Eluma to the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) failed. There were reports that Umar-Eluma is a close ally of Mrs. Aisha Buhari and also has her eyes in the Managing Director’s position in FAAN.
Umar-Elumah had vowed then that she would not report to AIB, alleging that she was being victimised by the minister and “some powers that be in FAAN.”
A source close to the ministry told our correspondent that the presidency had verbally told Sirika to return her to FAAN, where she had worked for 17 years before her redeployment to AIB.
But Sirika did not hearken to the directive.