Lagos – His Lordship, Hon. Justice E. A. Oji of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria, sitting in Lagos, on Tuesday 4th December 2018 in a judgment declared the Letter of resignation acceptance written by TURMERIC LTD –defendant as malicious and one likely to prevent the Claimant from getting another employment in Nigeria. The court ordered MOJOYINOLA JOLAADE LANA (Claimant) to pay to the Defendant the sum of N260, 000.00 representing Claimant’s two months’ salary in lieu of notice.
The Claimant commenced this action against the Defendants among others; A DECLARATION that the Defendant's letter dated 21st February 2017 suspending the Claimant indefinitely is in breach of the terms of the employment contract between the Claimant and the 1st Defendant and is unknown to or in breach of the Labour Law or international best practices and therefore null and void. A DECLARATION that the resignation letter submitted by the Claimant was induced by the unlawful acts of the Defendants.
Likewise, A DECLARATION that the Letter of Acceptance dated 3rd April 2017 written by the Defendants was written maliciously and made for the purpose of preventing the Claimant from getting another employment in Nigeria.
Defendant counter-claimed the sum of N260,000,000 as two months’ salary in lieu of notice of disengagement. The sum of N20,000,000.00 (Twenty Million Naira only) as General damages for loss of contract to be secured by the defendant save for the claimant’s Negligence.
The case of the Claimant is that the 1st Defendant on 27th July 2015 employed the Claimant as Superintendent Pharmacist. It is Claimant’s case that under the terms of the said contract, there was no provision for suspension. By another letter dated 27th July 2015, the Defendants gave an undertaken to give the Claimant a free hand to perform her roles as the Superintendent Pharmacist according to the ethics of the profession.
On 20th February 2017, an officer of the 1st Defendant called the Claimant at 9:10 am and told her to attend a programme taking place at 9.0clock at a venue the caller was not sure how to get to. Claimant responded ought to have given prior notice of the Programme so she could make proper arrangements to attend and arrange for the running of the branch which she was heading.
The Claimant was about to leave for the programme when her assistant reminded her she had earlier fixed a meeting with a Representative of the Society for Family Health and their Consultant Evaluator who was coming from the United Kingdom for the said meeting. The meeting was in the interest of the Defendants as to how the Defendants could benefit from a new product that was to be introduced into the Nigerian market. Consequently, as the Superintendent Pharmacist, she decided that she would stay and hold the meeting and sent her Assistant Technician to search for the venue and attend the programme.
Claimant received a letter dated 21st February 2017 putting her on an indefinite suspension with immediate effect. The Claimant went to meet the 2nd Defendant to know which act of hers constituted “unprofessional actions” for which she suspended and she was told that it was her failure to go for the above-mentioned programme.
The Claimant’s case is that after being idle for some time with no end in sight to her suspension, and with many employers seeking her services, she decided to resign her appointment which she did by letter dated 17th March 2017. The Claimant states that the Defendants maliciously wrote the letter of Acceptance dated 3rd April 2017 in a derogatory and defamatory manner so as to prejudice or destroy the Claimant's career and prevent her from getting any employment anywhere else.
Defendants state that prior to the incident culminating into the institution of this suit, the Claimant had over time exhibited nonchalant attitude, negligence, and remise to work which had attracted verbal warnings, admonitions, and queries in the cause of her employment.
It is Defendants case that the agreement to give the Claimant free hand to perform her duty as a Superintendent Pharmacist does not include lack of accountability and disobedience to directives of superiors and the Management.
Defendants knew of no beneficial meeting to be held by the Claimant with any other person at the expense of the workshop which she was specifically informed of and directed to attend.
Defendants state that in breach of the retainership agreement, the Claimant failed to give the required notice of disengagement to the Defendant; neither did she make payment of salary in lieu of same before disengaging herself by a letter of resignation. That the Defendant who is the Claimant’s employer took steps to discipline the Claimant by placing her on immediate suspension, and that the suspension was valid and cognizable within the bounds of law.
After careful analysis of all the processes filed, and the submissions of the learned Counsel from both sides. The Court presided by Hon. Justice E. A. Oji held that the claimant has failed to established that the resignation letter submitted was induced by the unlawful acts of the Defendants and further expressed thus;
‘The Claimant was suspended with effect from 21st February 2017, and she resigned on 17th March 2017. There is no evidence to show the further acts of the Defendant that induced Claimant’s resignation. In fact, the Defendant paid Claimant’s salary for the month of February 2017.
“I find the text of the acceptance letter one that runs afoul of the above provision as not only does it not help the Claimant; it has the capacity of running down the Claimant and affecting her future career. This is despite the fact that I have found that the Claimant has not proved that her suspension was wrongful or unlawful.
“I, therefore, declare that the Letter of Acceptance dated 3rd April 2017 written by the Defendants was written maliciously and one likely to prevent the Claimant from getting another employment in Nigeria.
“Defendants are hereby ordered to withdraw the letter of acceptance and issue one devoid of any derogatory words.
The court ordered Claimant to pay to the Defendant the sum of N260, 000.00 representing Claimant’s two months’ salary in lieu of notice and Defendants are to comply not later than 48 hours, after receipt of the N260, 000.00