S.O. Adedeji V Police Service Commission (1967)
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This is an appeal against the refusal of an order of certiorari to remove the decision of the Police Service Commission dated 24th November, 1965 dismissing him from the Police force, and to be quashed.
The appellant, who was an Assistant Superintendent of Police in the Nigeria Police Force, was on the 28th September 1965 served with a letter signed by some-one for the Secretary for the Police Service Commission. A copy of the letter was attached to the appellant’s affidavit (marked exhibit A) and reads:-
Police Service Commission, Private Bag 12586,
28th September, 1965
Mr. Stephen O. Adedeji,
Asssitant Superintendent of Police,
u.f.s. The Inspector-General of Police, Lagos.
It has been reported to the Commission that on the 11th June, 1965, you received the sum of nineteen pounds (£)19 in order to issue certificates of road worthiness for Motor Cycle No.830 and Peugeot Taxi Cab No. WL 1414; a Photostat copy of Certificate, of Road worthiness No. WR 488282 which you issued in respect of the Peugeot car is attached for perusal. This is a contravention of G. O. 04105(i) and also warrants dismissal.
“It is also reported that whereas you signed the said Certificate of Road worthiness certifying that you had examined vehicle No. WL 1414 at Ife you did not in fact examine the vehicle. This is a contravention of G. O. 04105(i) and also warrants dismissal.
“If you have any representation to make on your behalf as to why you should not be dismissed from the Service you are hereby requested to make them, through the Inspector-General of Police, within 48 hours of the receipt by you of this letter.
I am, Sir,
Your obedient servant
(Sgd.) (:C. OKONKWO),
Police Service Commission.”
In reply to this letter, the appellant in a three paged letter dated 19th October, 1965 (exhibit B) sought to exculpate himself. The contents of this letter are not material to this judgment but it is necessary to point out that the appellant set out certain facts which took place prior to his arrest. Certain material facts were later set out in a counter-affidavit filed on behalf of the respondent and sworn to by one Gbemudu, an Assistant Superintendent of Police, who claimed to have arrested the appellant. Some of these facts contradicted the appellant’s letter of 19th October, 1965.
On the 24th November, 1965, a letter of dismissal from the Police Service Com-mission was served on the appellant. The letter (marked exhibit C and attached to the appellant’s affidavit) reads as follows:-
“No. F.C. 17573/36
Police Service Commission,
Private Bag 12586,
24th November, 1965
Mr. S.O. Adedeji.
u.f.s. The Inspector-General of Police,
The Nigeria Police,
Force Headquarters, Moloney Street,
The Police Service Commission has carefully considered your representations dated 19th October, 1965, in, reply to my letter No. FC. 17573/17 of 28th September, 1965 but it does not consider that you have exculpated yourself. It has, therefore, directed that you be, and you are hereby dismissed from the service forthwith for gross misconduct.
I am, Sir,
Your obedient servant
(Sgd.) (E.A. OFFIONG)
Police Service Commission.”
On the 18th December, 1965 the appellant promptly asked the court for leave to apply for an order of certiorari to quash this decision. An order nisi was made but when the matter was later argued, the learned Chief Justice of the High Court refused to make it absolute and dismissed the application. From that order of dismissal the appellant has appealed to this court.
The arguments before us for the appellant were based on the same premises as argued before the learned Chief Justice and may be summarised under three submissions as follows-
1. That the provisions of General Order No. 04107 dealing with removal or dismissal of officers from the service have not been complied with.
2. A full statement of the facts or evidence upon which the Police Service Com-mission relied for dismissal of the appellant was not at any time communicated to him, and this is a breach of the rules of natural justice.
3. It was necessary in this case to have taken oral evidence, and failure to do so is a denial of justice.
We propose to deal first with the third submission. Chief Rotimi Williams for the appellant, whilst not stating categorically that in all cases oral evidence must be heard by the Police Service Commission, argued that in a case of this nature with its peculiar circumstances, oral evidence should have been heard, and the letter exhibit A to the appellant was not enough. We do not know the peculiar circumstances Chief Rotimi Williams referred to, but what we think was peculiar was the fact that an allegation of corruption was made against the appellant and despite his arrest on the spot, the Director of Public Prosecutions Western Nigeria, refused to prosecute the appellant on the ground that it would not be in the interest of the public generally, or the Police Force in particular, to do so. We refrain from saying any more about this.
We wonder, however, whether the attitude of Chief Williams to this is that the trial in court which did not take place should have been staged by the Police Service Commission, because we do not see any provision in the General Orders which include oral evidence as essential to proceedings before the Commission; nor were rules made by the Commission for regulating its affairs in such circumstances made available to the court below, or to this court, which make It essential for the Commission to hear oral evidence. We are of the view that the Police Service Commission, like any other tribunal of this nature, is entitled to decide its own procedure and lay down its own rules for the conduct of enquiries regarding discipline and the like – See R. v. Central Tribunal Ex pane Parton 32 T.L.R. 476. It is of the utmost importance however that the enquiry must be in accordance with the principles of natural justice. We do not think this re-quires oral hearing. Chief Williams has urged that in some cases, like the instant case, anything short of oral hearing will lead to Injustice. He referred us to a pas-sage in de Smith’s Judicial Review of Administrative Action, at page 110 where the learned author said-
“A person who is entitled to the protection afforded by the audi alteram parterm rule must not only be given adequate opportunity to know the case he has to meet; he must also be given an adequate opportunity to answer it.”
But the learned author continues, and this is important for our purpose-
“But he is not entitled to an oral hearing unless such a hearing is expressly prescribed:”
In an Australian case R. v. City of Melbourne, Ex Pane Whyte (1949) Victorian Law Rep. 257 where a Licensed Vehicles Committee was performing quasi-judicial functions and was acting judicially when considering the revocation, cancellation or suspension of the prosecutor’s licenses ft was held that in the absence of provisions enforcing an oral hearing the tribunal need not hear the parties. At page 265 of the report, in his judgment O’Bryan J. said-
“It is quite clear to my mind that the licensee must be given a reasonable opportunity of presenting his case and of meeting any relevant allegations which are made against him. But does that mean that he has the right to be heard in person before the tribunal? In my opinion it does not mean such a thing. He would, in my opinion, have no such right when his original application for licence was being considered or when his application for renewal was under consideration.”
As we have observed earlier, we are not aware that an oral hearing Is prescribed in any rules governing the procedure of the Police Service Commission. We may add that in our view, where oral evidence is prescribed, If ft is wanted, it should be asked for. The Commission is an administrative department or tribunal, created by the Constitution, and, of this type of body or tribunal, Lord Haldane, LC. In the case local Government Board v. Arlidge  A.C. 120 at page 132 said-
“Such a body as the Local Government Board has the duty of enforcing obligations on the individual which are imposed in the Interest of the community. Its character is that of an organisation with executive functions. In this it resembles other great departments of state. When therefore, Parliament entrusts it with judicial duties, Parliament must be taken in the absence of any declaration to the contrary, to have Intended it to follow the procedure which is its own, and is necessary if R is to be capable of doing its work efficiently.”
We now consider the first and second submissions together. It was submitted that the provisions of General Order No. 04107 have not been complied with. After setting out the grade of officers (which includes
Other Citation: (1967) LCN/1528(SC)