The President of the National Industrial Court, Hon. Justice Benedict Kanyip has declared the employment termination of Mr. Emana Edet by Fidelity Bank Plc as wrongful, ordered payment of salaries, allowance, severance package and the sum of N6,756,750.00 general damages within 30 days.
From Facts, Mr. Edet alleged that termination of his appointment was done contrary to the provisions of the staff handbook and no terminal benefit of any kind was paid to him that not even his salary for the Month of 2012 despite working up to 16th March 2012.
The claimant-Edet amongst others sought for payment of salaries, allowances and reinstatement, alternatively the sum of N21,827,093.50 (Twenty-One Million, Eight Hundred and Twenty-Seven, Ninety-Three Naira, Fifty kobo) special damages for wrongful termination from service.
The defendant in response refuted the allegations stated that the claimant is not entitled to any terminal benefits that by March 2012, the claimant was indebted to the defendant and refused to pay.
That the defendant cannot be held to have wrongfully terminated the claimant’s employment as claimed after fulfilled their obligations by payment of the claimant’s salary in lieu by way of set-off from the claimant’s indebtedness, urged the Court to hold.
In opposition, the claimant submitted that the failure to give prior or valid notice of termination renders the termination wrongful and invalid, that the claim of indebtedness and the deduction of salary and allowances are not consistent with the terms of the contract of employment, the Labour Act and international best practices.
After evaluating submissions of both counsel, the presiding Judge, Justice Kanyip rejected the argument of the Fidelity bank that it has fulfilled its obligations by payment of the claimant’s salary in lieu of notice by way of set off from the claimant’s indebtedness, described it as untenable.
“I am satisfied that the claimant proved the burden placed on him to prove that he worked till 16th March 2012 and that he was not paid for the said period by the defendant.
“If the claimant had not been retired by the defendant, the question of the claimant enjoined to pay off these sums will not have arisen. The evidence before the Court is that while in service, there was no obligation on the claimant to pay any of these sums. The obligation to pay only arose as a result of the retirement of the claimant by the defendant. Is it not, therefore, a question of the defendant eating its cake and having it if allowed to benefit from its act of wrongly retiring the claimant? I think so.”
In all, the court declared that the termination of the claimant’s appointment by the defendant as contained in the defendant’s letter dated March 16, 2012, as wrongful, ordered payment of N145,306.45 being the claimant’s salary for March 2012, N281,531.25 salary in lieu of notice, N850,000 relocation allowance, N1,162,550.94 severance package and the sum of N6,756,750.00 being general damages for the unauthorized debiting of the claimant’s account and the deprivation of access of the claimant to his account within 30 days.
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