Nigeria News

Court dismisses lecturer’s claims against ABU over unpaid salary

By Sodiq Adelakun

The National Industrial Court has dismissed salary entitlement claims by Prof Ndukaeze Nwabueze against Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, for lacking merit.

Justice Sinmisola Adeniyi delivering judgment held that Nwabueze’s sabbatical appointment with the University came to an end due to frustration and he was therefore not entitled to the reliefs that he sought.

“As contained in Exhibit C1, the claimant’s sabbatical appointment is non-renewable, it commenced on March 9, 2020, and was to end on March 8, 2021, that is, a period of one year.

“Therefore, the claimant has not completed the documentation to place him on the payroll of the first defendant for his salary before the Covid-19 lockdown and ASUU strike and has not resumed lectures until Feb.8, 2021, which was a month to the end of his sabbatical appointment.

“The defendants have validly raised the defence of frustration of contract,” the court held.

From facts, the claimant had submitted that his appointment by the University was a full-time sabbatical appointment for a year.

He further averred that after he assumed duty, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) embarked on strike, coupled with the COVID-19 global pandemic which resulted in the lockdown and consequent closure of public institutions.

According to Nwabueze, shortly after the ASUU strike was suspended in Jan. 2021, he reported for duty and began lectures.

He however contended that the University refused to pay his salary despite his demands, and urged the court to grant the reliefs sought.

In defence, the defendants — ABU and its Governing Council maintained that the claimant did not discharge his obligations under the contract as same was frustrated by the ASUU strike and COVID-19 lockdown.

The defendants through its counsel, Abubakar Is’haq argued that the claimant did not complete his documentation after assumption of duty, and was only introduced to the students on Feb. 8, 2021, but did not lecture.

In opposition, Nwabueze’s counsel, Prosper Akubue submitted that the ASUU strike and COVID-19 lockdown did not constitute supervening events which can be said to have frustrated his client’s sabbatical appointment.

He added that the events did not disentitle his client from being paid the arrears of his salaries as other staff of the school were paid during the same period.

The court however on its part held that a contract which is discharged on the ground of frustration is brought to an end automatically by the operation of law, irrespective of the wishes of the parties.

The court, in addition, held that the defendants had validly raised the defence of frustration of contract, that while the employment of the University’s other staff was on a full-time basis and governed by statute flavour, that of Nwabueze was a contract of employment governed by his letter of appointment.

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