THE National Industrial Court, Abuja, on Friday maintained its ground by again rejecting an application filed by the Nigeria Bulk Electricity Trade PLC (NBET) to stay proceedings in a case brought before it by one of the company’s embattled staff, Sambo Abdullahi.
Counsel to NBET had filed the application before the then trial Judge, Hon Justice Kiyersohot Damulak, asking the court to refrain from hearing the suit pending when the application filed at the appeal court is heard and determined.
Abdullahi, head of the Internal Audit at NBET, had queried fraudulent acts by Marilyn Amobi, NBET Managing-Director, alleging that transactions made by her on behalf of the organisation violated extant circulars, financial regulations and agreement duly executed by NBET.
He specifically queried the payment of N7.5 million to one Engr. Achinaya, a monthly over-invoicing of N2 billion to Olorunsogo and Omotosho Power plants and N30 million to Azinge & Azinge and Aelex law firms among others.
Not satisfied with the auditor’s queries, the NBET MD redeployed Abdullahi to another department and ensured his salaries are withheld since December 2017.
In a bid to challenge continuous intimidation by the MD, the embattled whistle-blower had approached the industrial court which ordered the maintenance of a status quo until the determination of the case.
Amobi then applied to the Appeal Court seeking an order to set it aside.
The appeal was on the grounds that the trial judge had erred by issuing an order suo motu, which is “directing parties to maintain the status quo without affording the parties any opportunity to address the court in respect of the said order”.
Presiding judge transferred, case reassigned
NBET made only an oral application before the National Industrial Court to stay proceedings and did not serve the claimant’s counsel at the appropriate time, after securing an adjournment to file the application. The NBET Counsel had also approached the appeal court seeking relief for the trial judge to recuse himself from the case.
However, a few days before the resumption of the case, Justice Kiyersohot Damulak was transferred out of the Abuja division of the NICN. The application had not been heard at the time and no reason was given for the transfer.
The new judge, Hon Justice Oyejoju Oyebiola Oyewunmi, who took over the case on Friday insisted that the suit could not lie fallow while the appeal court is busy with some other dealings.
The case was adjourned till October 31 and November 1 for hearing.