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[Update] Industrial Court sets aside dismissal of Vitus Ugwoke from Skye Bank, validates resignation

338 Tuesday 15th December 2020

His Lordship, Hon. Justice Hamman Polycarp of the Portharcourt Judicial division of the National Industrial Court has set aside the purported dismissal of Mr Vitus Ugwoke from Skye Bank via a letter dated October 12, 2011, and validated Ugwoke’s resignation of the Ugwoke’s from service via the letter dated 22nd August 2012.

Justice Polycarp ordered Skye bank to release claimant’s requisite documents to enable access to his pension contributions with TrustFund PFA, with the payment of the sum of N6,098,558.33 Six Million, Nine-Hundred and Eight Thousand, Five-Hundred and Fifty-Eight Naira as salaries arrears for October 2011 to July 2012, and the sum of Two  Hundred Thousand naira within 30 days. 

From facts, the claimant’s- Vitus Ugwoke had submitted that allegation of misconduct was made against him without any opportunity to explain himself contrary to known banking ethics that he was prosecuted and subsequently discharged.

That on the 22nd of August, 2012 he sent a notice of retirement and demanded payment of his outstanding salaries from October 2011 to July 2012 and all to no avail.

He submitted further that it was during the pendency of the suit he saw a purported letter of dismissal dated 12th October 2011 for the first time by the bank.

In defence, the bank stated thay discovered some wrongs in Ogwuke's office that the Chief Inspector decided to investigate the matter and a panel was set up that the Claimant abandoned his duty post and did not report to the office. 

The defendant averred further that queries were issued to the staff involved in the matter who were found wanting by the panel, but the claimant failed to appear and also made himself unavailable to be issued any query urged the court to dismiss the suit with cost.

The defendant denied refusing the claimant access to his account that the claimant’s pension contributions were duly remitted to his pension fund administrator. 

The defendant counsel U. B. Ubaika Esq raised objection urged the court to strike out the suit on the grounds that Skye bank having been wound up, that no suit can commence or continue in the name, that Polaris Bank did not assume employee liabilities of Skye Bank among others.

In opposition, the claimant’s counsel James Oguru Esq urged the court to dismiss the objection and submitted that the employment termination of Ogwuke was done in breach of the terms of employment.

Delivering the judgment, the presiding judge, Justice Polycarp Hamman dismissed the objections for want of merit and held that Skye Bank is not dead having not been dissolved that no court of law acts on speculations.

“What is therefore obvious from exhibit UBO2 (liquidation and revocation of the banking licence of the defendant (Skye Bank Plc) is that the defendant has not been dissolved, and there is no evidence before the court to indicate that the defendant (Skye Bank Plc) has been dissolved. 

“To merely depose that the assets and liabilities of the defendant have been acquired by Polaris Bank without any evidence of such acquisition is to my mind not enough. 

“In labour law, while an employer can dismiss an employee summarily or otherwise on any allegation that amounts to gross misconduct as provided in the terms of employment even without notice, this must however not be to the detriment of the rule of fair hearing.”

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