After five years of protracted legal battle between the Federal Government and Yushau Shuaib, Chief Information Officer at the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed’s Ministry has finally obeyed the National Industrial Court order to reinstate the embattled civil servant.
This was contained in a letter of reinstatement with reference no. FMIC/LEG/307/VOL.1/122 addressed to Shuaib and signed by the Director of Human Resources Management, S.U. Ewa, on behalf of the Minister of Information and Culture.
Shuaib was informed of the Minister’s directive to reinstate him into the civil service as Chief Information Officer on GL14 with immediate effect.
The reinstatement letter reads in part: “I am directed to refer to the National Industrial Court judgment dated 22nd November, 2017 on the above subject and to inform you of the Honourable Minister’s directive that you be reinstated into the civil service as Chief Information Officer, SGL14 with immediate effect.
“You are therefore requested to report to the undersigned for further instruction, please.”
In his letter of acceptance to the Minister’s directive to reinstate him, dated September 17, 2018, addressed Mohammed, Shuaib appreciated the decision in line with the judgment of the National Industrial Court delivered on November 22, 2017.
Shuaib, while holding the Minister in high regards, requested for the prompt settlement of his outstanding salary arrears from June 2013 to date and gave his account details in order for the ministry to do the needful.
Recall that Justice David Isele of the National Industrial Court had ordered the immediate reinstatement of the former spokesperson of the National Emergency Management Agency into the public service after forceful retirement in 2013 over an opinion article he wrote on former Finance Minister, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
Shuaib had sued Okonjo-Iweala, Federal Civil Service Commission and Federal Ministry of Information over the purported retirement.
James Ode Abah of Bamidele Aturu Legal Chambers handled the case for Shuaib.
Delivering the judgment, Justice Isele declared that the letter retiring Shuaib from service has no force of law and is therefore illegal, unconstitutional, null and void and of no effect whatsoever being in flagrant violation of the civil service rules.
The judge also declared: “The premature retirement of NEMA spokesperson by the Federal Government without conducting any investigation, without giving him an opportunity to defend himself and without complying with the condition precedent for retirement is contrary to Section 36 of the 1999 Constitution and therefore illegal, unlawful, unconstitutional and null and void.”
The court, therefore, ordered Shuaib’s immediate return to his duty post as Chief Information Officer without any loss to seniority, salaries, position and other emoluments.
The judge ordered the Federal Government to compute and pay within 30 days all salaries, allowances and other emoluments due to Shuaib from June 2013 to the judgment date and interest at the prevailing commercial bank’s rate on his total package.
The case centered on the illegal and unlawful retirement of Shuaib over an allegation of criticizing Okonjo-Iweala in an opinion article on lopsided appointment in the public service.
Early in his statement of defence, Shuaib had stated that Public Service Rule 030421 gave him the right to write an article.
According to that section: “Nothing in this rule shall be deemed to prevent an officer from publishing in his own name, by writing, speech or broadcast matters relating to a subject of general interest which does not contain a critic of any officer.” He also cited Section 39 (1) of the 1999 Constitution which states: “Every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including the freedom to hold opinions and receive and impart ideas and information without interference.”
Shuaib, an award-winning writer, was offered automatic employment by Delta State and Federal Government after winning State and Presidential Awards of the National Youths Service Corps scheme in 1993.
He had served at various organisations as Public Relations Officer and Press Secretary, including at the Delta State Government House, Asaba; the state’s Ministry of Information, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Health; Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission; National Press Centre; and NEMA.
After his purported compulsory retirement, Shuaib activated PRNigeria, a press release platform for critical institutions in Nigeria, serving the military, security, intelligence and response agencies, among others.