Abuja---His Lordship, Hon. Justice Sanusi Kado of the National Industrial Court, Abuja judicial division has declared the employment termination of Mr. Bello Ibrahim by Ecobank without valid justifiable reasons as wrongful and total disregard to the international best practices as provided by the convention and recommendation of the International Labour Organization which the court has power to enforce.
The Court ordered immediate reinstatement of Bello back to the employment of Ecobank and payment of N500,000.00 (Five Hundred Thousand Naira) cost of action.
"The law, for long, has been that an employer needs not give reason to terminate a contract of employment; he only needs to comply with the terms and conditions of employment. Employers are at liberty to terminate for good, bad reason or no reason at all. This general trite position of the common law rule is however considered not be in tune with modern day global labour law best practices." Justice Kado
From facts, the claimant-Bello submitted that during the period of his employment he served diligently and was never involved in disciplinary misconduct or misappropriation of finance of any kind, that he was shocked to received Letter terminating his employment without giving reason for such termination.
Claimant stated that the termination of his employment was not done merely as an exercise of the bank's right to terminate the contract but was done wrongfully in a bid to victimize him and not in line with international standard practice.
However, Defendant-Ecobank stated that the claimant exited the service of the defendant under the rightsizing exercise carried out by the bank in January 2018 and his benefits and entitlements were duly paid to him that the motive behind termination is not vital in the determination of wrongfulness or otherwise of termination.
The defendant insisted that the termination of the employment was done in the exercise of the right to determine the contractual relationship as permitted upon payment of one Month salary in lieu of notice of termination. The defendant tendered in evidence of one month salary paid on 8/2/18 in lieu of notice, that the claimant has not put forward any cogent evidence before the court to prove his employment was wrongfully terminated urged the court to dismiss the suit.
In reply, Counsel to the claimant Adaolisa Anyanutaku, Esq contended that the claimant has shown that the arbitrary termination of his contract of employment has caused him to suffer loss both financially and in terms of reputation that Reinstatement would in no way affect the affairs of the defendant given the peculiar nature of the case that defendant is in charge of a large number of employees scattered across the country.
Counsel contended that by Article 4 of the Termination of Employment Convention 1982, that motives is indispensable in this kind of situation that given the disgraceful nature in which the claimant's employment was terminated, that a reinstatement in only fair to restore lost.
In opposition, Counsel to the defendant contended that an order for reinstatement cannot be made as the claimant is not entitled to it as the court cannot impose an employee on unwilling employer.
Delivering Judgment, the presiding Judge, Justice Kado rejected the claim of Ecobank suggesting that the termination of the claimant's employment was as a result of rightsizing carried out in January 2018, due to absence of proof of the assertion.
"In the case at hand, notice of termination was dated 31/1/18 and the notice is to take effect on 2/2/18. Claimant statement of account was tendered by the defendant to show that the one month salary in lieu of notice was paid to the claimant on 8/2/18. It is apparent that the one month salary in lieu of notice was not paid to the claimant by the defendant contemporaneously with the notice of termination. This breach has rendered the notice of termination invalid. Therefore, the termination of claimant's contract of service has been rendered ineffectual as at 2/2/18, since payment in lieu of notice was not paid on 2/2/18.
"From the evidence and circumstances of this case, there was nothing to cast doubt on the claimant's capacity in terms of performance of his job. To my mind, in view of Article 4 of convention No. 158 of ILO and recommendation 166 of the said convention, it will not be fair to terminate contract of employment for no reason whether bad or good.
"The implication of the new jurisdiction of the court is the paradigm shift in the law of termination is that employers must now justify every termination as it is no longer the law that employers can terminate for good or bad reasons or no reason at all. This also shows that the current labour regime in the country empowering the court to deal with issues of international best practices clearly demonstrated the resolve of the legislature to modify the traditional common law doctrine giving employers power to perpetrate unfair termination. Therefore the general common law rule of not ordering specific performance in master and servant relationship as in this case has been demystified.
"In view of the peculiar facts and circumstances of this case in that the claimant was not found wanting in his job nor has he been found to have committed fraud or serious misconduct, he has made out a case in which it is exceptionally necessary to order specific performance. In the circumstances I hereby ordered the immediate reinstatement of the claimant back to the employment of the defendant." Justice Kado ruled.
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