From Olalekan Awojodu, Abuja.
A National Industrial Court in Abuja on Monday affirmed virtual proceedings for a suspended Manager of the Federal government owned Oil and Gas Free Zone Authority Administration (OGFZAA), Funmilayo Omosule to give evidence in his suit challenging his alleged unlawful suspension from work.
He is to lead evidence from his new base in the United States of America (USA) with the newly introduced virtual court proceedings.
Although the matter was slated April 4, the Industrial Court was forced to shift the date to May 24 following the absence of the Federal Government counsel in court.
When the suit was mentioned, a letter from a Senior Advocate of Nigeria SAN, Paul Erokoro was presented indicating that the counsel on court record, Peace Ogbonna, would not be in court due to engagement in Court of Appeal for other matters.
The letter requested for a shift in the hearing date of the suit,
However, counsel to the Claimant, Dr Tunji Abayomi faulted the approach of the Federal Government lawyer adding that he was not copied with the letter as required by law.
Abayomi pleaded with the court to invoke Order 31 Rule 5 of the National Industrial Court to compel hearing of the suit as earlier scheduled.
Justice Olufunke Anuwe in a brief ruling recalled having earlier granted accelerated hearing into the suit filed since 2016.
The Judge affirmed adoption of virtual proceedings to fast-track resolutions of all issues but declined to compel hearing of the matter as pleaded by lawyer to the plaintiff.
Justice Anuwe subsequently fixed a new date of May 24 and directed that the defendant must be put on notice for the fresh hearing date.
Both OGFZA and Omosule had been locked in fierce legal battle to resolve the legality or otherwise of the plaintiff’s suspension, following his petition against some management staff of the agency on alleged corruption.
Omosule, who is the claimant in the suit is seeking for the sum of N50m as exemplary and general damages over his alleged suspension.
OGFZAA had via a letter dated April 18, 2011, suspended Omosule as the manager of its Abuja office, on the grounds that he refused to comply with its letter dated December 3, 2010, which had directed him to present the originals of his credentials for verification.
Omosule, however, refuted the claim of the authority, stating rather that he made available to the defendant, Certified True Copies (CTCs) of his educational certificates /credentials, including GCE ‘O Level certificates and degree certificates as instructed.
Omosule had claimed that the originals of his credentials were misplaced in untraceable circumstances as at 2010 when the report to submit originals was made.
The claimant also averred that the CTCs of his certificates submitted to the defendant were certified by the issuing institutions, which included West African Examination Council and the University of Ado-Ekiti, then Ondo State University, Ado-Ekiti respectively.
The claimant is therefore seeking the court‘s declaration that he was still a staff of the organisation and entitled to all the rights, privileges and benefits due to him by reason of his employment.
He is praying the court for an order directing the defendant to reinstate him to the position of a director, on grade level 17, a position he claimed his contemporaries were holding currently.
Omosule is equally seeking for the order of the court to direct the defendant to pay all his outstanding salaries, benefits and entitlement since 2011.
In addition, he is asking the court to order the defendant to pay him the sum of N50m as exemplary and general damages.