The National Industrial Court Of Nigeria (NICN), Asaba division, has declared the purported termination of employment of Richard Ogagaoghene Okagbare by United Bank for Africa (UBA) Plc, as unconstitutional, malicious and unlawful
Consequently, Justice (Dr.) J. I. Targema, who presided over the court has ordered UBA Plc, to pay a total sum of ₦27, 011, 356.56 million, to the unjustly sacked worker, Richard Ogagaoghene Okagbare, as general damages for his unlawful dismissal as well as damages.
Justice Targema, ordered UBA Plc, to pay the money within 30 days of the judgment.
The judgment was delivered on January 18, 2023.
The claimant, Richard Ogagaoghene Okagbare, through his lawyer, N. W. Ogbogu, had dragged the UBA Plc before the court in a suit marked NICN/ASB/47/2020, wherein he asked for the following reliefs: “a declaration that the termination of his employment with the by Bank, via a letter dated April 20, 2016, is a breach of bank’s Group Staff Handbook and Compensation Policy for loss of earnings; is unconstitutional; is in breach of and did not comply with International Best Practices as enjoined by the International Labour Organization’s Termination of Employment Convention of 182 No. 158 and Recommendation 166 (R 166 Termination of Employment Recommendation 1982 No. 166) of the ILO’s International Standard Practice (especially but not limited to Article 4, 5, 6 and 7) and therefore unlawful.
“An order for payment of total sum of N133, 006, 862. 64 million, being his unpaid salary for the month of April 2016; loss of earnings from May 2016 to March 2025, when he would have retired at 60 years pursuant to the defendant’s group Handbook); leave encashment for 9 years; and leave allowance for 9 years.”
Alternatively, the claimant asked the court for an order for payment of total sum of N92, 104, 447, 27 million, being his unpaid salary for the month of April 2016, under the Compensation Policy of the Defendant Bank and cost of instituting the suit.
An order for payment of 10 percent interest on the judgment sum from the date of judgment until it is liquidated.
The claimant during the trial of the case, the claimant told the court that he was a staff of the UBA sometime in 2016 when his employment was unjustly terminated in very questionable and unfair circumstances; and that he was paid the paltry sum of N441, 107.66 without any payment in lieu of notice and terminal benefits in accordance with the defendant’s Group Staff Handbook and Compensation Policy for loss of earnings.
He also told the court that all his plea for the bank to withdraw the letter of termination and allow him to resign, taking into consideration that according to the customs and usage of the banking industry, where a Banker’s appointment is terminated or is dismissed from employment, the possibility of finding further employment in the banking industry is frustrated but the bank bluntly refused.
He also told the court that he was a permanent employee on indefinite and pensionable retirement age of 60 years or 35 cumulative years of service whichever is earlier but his employment was terminated in very questionable and unfair circumstances without following the Group Staff Handbook Policy Document No. HRG:001 of June, 2010, the Human Resources and Disciplinary Process and Sanctions Policy, International Standard Practice outlined in the International Labour Organizations (ILO) Article 4 of the Termination of Employment Convention of 19982 (No. 188) and Recommendation 166 (R 166 – Termination of Employment Recommendation) 19982 No. 166).
But UBA Plc, through one of its staff, Mr James Ebako, who testified as Defendant Witness, while being led by Mr. G. C. Igbokwe (SAN), told the court that the claimant was an employee of UBA Plc until 2014/2016, when his appointment was terminated by the bank.
And that before the termination, the claimant held various positions in the course of his employment with the bank and also had disciplinary records while in the bank’s employment.
UBA Plc’s further told the court that the various positions held by the claimant had its specific and peculiar task while the failure to meet up the task led to disciplinary measures against the claimant after each of the task was measured and monitored by the bank’s performance appraisal system.
And that the performance appraisal system is holistic and gives a clear indication of the performance of each staff; that the outcome of the appraisal is communicated to the members of staff at the end of each appraisal circle adopted.
He also stated that the claimant performed poorly for five consecutive appraisal circles after which he was advised to resign in April 2016, for his consistent poor performance in line with the defendant’s Human Resource Disciplinary Process and Sanction Policy; that the claimant failed and/or refused to tender his resignation as advised by the bank within the advised period and was thereafter issued a letter of termination in line with the defendant disciplinary process and sanctions policy.
He also informed the court that after the termination of the claimant’s employment with the bank, he appealed to the bank to now resign his employment outside of the advised period and the application was considered and refused by the bank hence the claimant instituted this action against the bank.
Justice (Dr.) Targema, after listening to parties’ counsel’s arguments, and legally perused all the processes and exhibits tendered, as well cited several plethoras of legal authorites, held that; “in all, the claimant’s case succeeds only on the terms already indicated.
“Accordingly and for the avoidance of doubt, I make the following declaration and order: “It is declared that the termination of the claimant’s employment with the UBA by the Defendant Bank via a letter dated 20 April 2016, is a breach of the Defendant’s Group Staff Handbook, Terms and Conditions of claimant’s appointment. It is unconstitutional, malicious and unlawful.
“It is hereby ordered that the defendant Bank (UBA Plc) shall within 30 days of this judgment pay to the claimant the sum of Twenty Seven Million, Eleven Thousand Three Hundred and Fifty Six Naira Fifty Six kobo (₦27, 011, 356.56) only being general damages for unlawful dismissal as well as damages for refusing to issue work reference to the claimant.
“Judgment is entered accordingly. I make no order as to cost.”