July 13, 2024

Court dismisses 96 SSAs, 73 others over N804m remuneration claim against Bauchi govt


… Political officeholder does not qualify as public servant

… Nullified Bauchi State Remuneration of Public and Political Office Holders Law 2007

The Presiding Judge, Bauchi Judicial Division of the National Industrial Court, Hon. Justice Mustapha Tijjani has dismissed the N804m Remuneration and entitlement claims made by 96 former Senior Special Assistants, 51 Special Assistants, and 22 Part-time Board Members who served between 2011 and 2015 against the Bauchi State Government for lacking merit.

The Court declared the Remuneration of Public and Political Office Holders Law of Bauchi State 2007 as null and void to the extent of its inconsistency with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended).

Justice Tijjani held that the exercise of the legislative powers by the Bauchi State House of Assembly must be in strict compliance with the Constitution, anything short of that will be inconsistent with the provisions of the Constitution and therefore a nullity.

From facts, the claimants- 169 Political officeholders had submitted that they were entitled to the sum of N500, 562, 463, 24 as their cumulative Severance gratuity and the sum of N303, 703.122.00 as Furniture Allowance, bringing their total claim before this Court to the sum of N804, 265,586 by virtue of the state Remuneration of Public and Political Office Holders Law 2007.

In defence, the defendants- Bauchi State Govt and its Attorney General averred that the Claimants are not entitled to either Severance Gratuity or Furniture that the law relied upon by the claimants is grossly in conflict with clear provisions of the 1999 Constitution.

The State Attorney General submitted that the Bauchi State House of Assembly cannot validly make a law that confers post-tenure benefits on political office holders as it did in the Remuneration of Public and Political Office Holders Law 2007, urged the Court to uphold the supremacy of the Constitution of the and dismiss the Claimants’ action in its entirety.

In opposition, the Learned Counsel to the claimants averred that the benefits of the present Claimants as provided in Exhibit tendered are unaffected by any constitutional provision as the amounts alleged to be their monthly salary are uncontroverted as entries in bank statements are prima facie evidence of its content.

Counsel further submitted that the framers of the 1999 constitution did not intend that holder of any office on the personal staff of the Governor like the first and second Claimants should work pro bono, receiving neither salaries nor gratuity and that this will be an absurd proposition.

The court in its well-considered judgment presided by Justice Mustapha Tijjani held that Dalhatu Ibrahim and others were Political Office Holders, not Public Servants, and Section 210 of the 1999 Constitution as amended is inapplicable to them.

Justice Tijjani held that the States Pension Laws are enacted pursuant to the Constitutional Provision and they apply to the public servants in the states who are defined under Section 318 (1) of the Constitution which excludes all the political offices in the Governments of the states.

“It is the law that a Political Office Holder does not qualify as a Public Servant.” Justice Tijjani ruled.

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