SUSPENSION- IMPLICATION OF SUSPENSION AS IT RELATES TO FAIR HEARING
"The word suspension has come under the thorough scrutiny of the courts of our land and the courts have never minced words on the meaning of the phrase and its implication as it relates to fair hearing. In Mr. Bernard Ojiefor Longe v. First Bank Of Nigeria Plc. (2006) LPELR-(CA) 44-47 Salami, JCA (as he then was) stated:-
I want to ask myself whether he ought to have been heard before his suspension. The appellant was suspended and eventually removed because it became necessary to do so... It is a desperate situation which demands drastic action. It cannot wait for legal finesse such as fair hearing or natural justice. That can wait!... the appellant will not be entitled to hearing prior to the suspension. The principle of fair hearing, at this stage, at least is shut out. In such circumstance, the long line of authorities are to the effect that the principle of natural justice is kept in abeyance...
While reaching the above decision, Salami (JCA as he then was) quoted the notorious English case of Lewis v. Heffer & Sons (1978) 3 All ER 254 at 364 where the famous Law Lord, Denning stated thus:
"Very often irregularities are disclosed in a government department or in a business house; and a man may be suspended on full pay pending inquiries. Suspension may rest on him; and so he is suspended until he is cleared of it. No one so far as I know, has ever questioned such a suspension on the ground that it could not be done unless he is given notice of the charge and an opportunity of defending himself, and so forth. The suspension in such a case is merely done by way of good administration. A situation has arisen in which something may be done at once. The work of the department or the office is being affected by rumours and suspicions. The others will not trust the man. In order to get back to proper work, the man is suspended. At that stage the rules of natural justice do not apply.
In placing a definite seal on the above enunciated principle, the Supreme Court also relying on the dictum of Lord Denning in Lewisv. Heffer & Sons (supra.) held thus in Bernard Ojiefor Longe v. First Bank of Nigeria Plc. (2010) LPELR-1793 (SC):
"The word ‘suspension’ means a temporary privation or deprivation, cessation or stoppage of or from, the privileges and rights of a person. The word carries or conveys a temporary or transcirnt disciplinary procedure which keeps away the victim or person disciplined from his regular occupation or calling either for a fixed or terminal period or indefinitely. The disciplinary procedure gives the initiation of the discipline a period to make up his mind as to what should be done to the person facing the discipline. Although in most cases, suspension, results in a disciplinary action, it is not invariably so. There are instances when the authority decides not to continue with the matter. This could be because the investigations did not result in any disciplinary conduct."
The 1st to 12th Respondents (particularly the 12th Respondent i.e. Sardauna Local Government Legislative Council) has the power to investigate the Appellants by virtue of Section 36 of the Taraba State Local Government Law, 2000. If the Law empowers to investigate and checkmate, it is correct to say that the power to suspend is inherent. Upon the premise of the suspension, the Appellants are alleging breach of fair hearing on the ground that they were not heard before the suspension. As highlighted in the cases of Bernard Ojiefor Longev. First Bank Of Nigeria Plc. (Supra); Lewis v. Heffer & Sons (Supra) and University Of Calabar Teaching Hospital & Anor. v. Juliet Koko Bassey (2008) LPELR-8553 (CA) 30-31, Paras. C-D the principle of natural justice must be kept in abeyance under such circumstances."
PER A. M. BAYERO, J.C.A. IN HON. JOHN B. YEP & ANOR V HON. CHRISTOPHER D. SAMUEL & ORS
suit no: CA/YL/167/2018
Legalpedia Electronic Citation: (2020) Legalpedia (CA) 14361
Summary Of Fact:
The Plaintiffs/Appellants are the elected Chairman and Vice Chairman of Sardauna Local Government Council of Taraba State who were elected for a tenure of three years from the date they were sworn in into office. The 1st to 12th Defendants/Respondents (the Councilors of the Local Government) served the Appellants with a suspension letter dated 27/072017 for a period of three months. After the expiration of the three months suspension, the Governor of Taraba State extended the suspension for an indefinite term by a letter. By an Originating Summons, the Appellants sought for the following declarations against the Respondents, among others: an order of this court declaring the act of 1st to 15th Defendants in purporting to suspend the Plaintiffs and thereafter proceed to investigate them as unconstitutional, illegal, null and void abinitio; an order of this court vacating the 11th Defendant from office as acting Chairman of Sardauna Local Government Council; an order of this court declaring the extension of the suspension of the Plaintiffs by the Defendants from their elected offices as unconstitutional, illegal, null and void. The lower Court heard and dismissed the case of the Appellants. Dissatisfied, the Appellants lodged an appeal before this court contending that Section 34 and 36 of the Taraba State Local Government Law, 2000 does not confer powers on a legislative council to suspend an elected Chairman and Vice Chairman.
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