Court orders Union Bank to pay retired staff N20.2m unpaid gratuity
Justice Maureen Esowe of the Lagos division of the National Industrial Court, has ordered the Union Bank, to immediately pay the total sum of N20, 261, 810 million to one of its retired staff,
The judgement sum according to Justice Esowe, is the shortfall of gratuity Union bank ought to pay Mrs. Asenime, upon her retirement.
Justice Esowe made the ordered while delivering judgment in a suit marked NICN/LA/534/2017, filed by retired officer and the bank.
The claimant, a Senior Manager of the bank, through her lawyer, Chief Paul Omoijiade, had asked the court to “declare that the purported approval by the bank of the claimant’s withdrawal from service which the Claimant did not apply for was wrong.
“A declaration that the purported determination of the Claimant’s contract of service by the bank is wrongful, same having been done without due process as laid down in the bank’s handbook and the bank’s custom and practice.
“A declaration that the purported removal of the claimant from his employment as Senior Manager (SM) without due process amounts to redundancy for which the claimant is entitled to redundancy benefit.
“A declaration that the defendant is in arrears of N18, 114, 600 million, in the payment of the Claimant’s gratuity.
“A declaration that the deduction of the sum of N16,106,219.66 million, as outstanding loans, status car, unearned medical, outstanding status generator and car from the claimant’s gratuity is unlawful.
“An order of the honourable court directing the defendant to pay to the claimant the sum of N16,106,219.66 million, deducted from the claimant’s gratuity.
“A order of the honourable court directing the Defendant to pay to the Claimant the sum of N18,114, 600 being shortfall in the gratuity paid to her.
“An order of the honourable court that the bank pay the sum of N12 million, to the Claimant as compensation for the defendant’s wrongful and unlawful action withdrawing the claimant’s services without due process.
“An order of the honourable court for the payment of interest at the rate of 20% on the deductions and withheld gratuity under paragraph (f) and (g) above.
“An order of the honourable court that the bank pay to the claimant the sum of N1 million, being the cost of litigation.
During the trial of the suit, the claimant told the court that ahe was a staff of the bank until her employment was wrongfully withdrawn on November 22, 2013 and her terminal benefits were never paid in full.
She also told the court that the bank also deducted the sum of N16, 106, 219.66 million, which the bank referred to as outstanding loans, unearned housing, status car and unearned leave from her benefit. Adding that said she never applied for withdrawal service, therefore, the withdrawal of her services is tantamount to redundancy.
Defending the suit, Union Bank through its witness, Mr. Francis Idiaghe, who was led by Feliz O. Ogungbemi, told the court that there is no provision in the Trust Deed of variation that the claimant or any employee of the bank can remain in service till the age of 60. Rather, under the employment, either party can determine the contract by giving a month’s notice.
The witness told the court that the Defendant, exercising her right under the contract, determined the contract by a letter of withdrawal of service dated November 22, 2016 issued to the claimant. Adding that the sum of N16,106,219.66 million, deducted from the claimant’s terminal benefits covers the loans (N13,683,188.86 million) taken by the claimant during the pendency of her employment and the outstanding and unpaid money (N2, 247,210 million) covering the cost of her status car and a generating set.
The bank in her final written address, asked the court to determine “Whether the claimant is entitled to a declaration that the withdrawal of the Claimant’s employment is unlawful.
“Whether the Claimant having been paid her terminal benefit and having accepted same, can be heard to complain that his contract was not properly determined.
“Whether the termination of the Claimant of employment by the Defendant amounts to redundancy.
“Whether the Claimant is entitled to the sum of N18,114,600.00 (Eighteen Million One Hundred and Fourteen Thousand Six Hundred Naira) as outstanding gratuity from the Defendant.
“Whether the deduction of the sum from the Claimant’s terminal benefit in liquidation of Claimant’s outstanding staff loans, status, generator loan and unearned medical is unlawful.
“Whether by virtue of the evidence placed before this Honourable Court, the Claimant is entitled to damages in the sum of N12 million.
“Whether the Claimant is entitled to interest at the rate 20% on the alleged outstanding gratuity and the amount allegedly deducted from her gratuity.
“Whether the Claimant is entitled to the sum of N1 million, as cost of litigation.”
Justice Esowe, in her judgment on the suit after the evaluation of parties submissions, and citing of plethora of legal authorites, held that: “having gone through the Claimant’s claim, evidence led in support, the Defendant’s defence, evidence led in support, with the final written submissions of Counsel on both sides, this Court, while adopting all the issues formulated by Counsel, has distilled a sole issue for determination, to wit: Whether the Claimant has proved his case to be entitled to the reliefs sought.”
“The reliefs sought by the claimant touch on unlawful termination of employment and the monetary benefits the Claimant is entitled to. The Claimant contests the letter which determined her employment relationship with the Defendant to which the letter is titled Withdrawal of Services. The Claimant contends that she is the only one who can withdraw her services and not the Claimant. That since she did not withdraw her services, at worst, what the Defendant did was redundancy and not termination of employment.
“On the part of the Defendant, she contends that either party can bring the employment to an end, and it is in exercise of her rights derivable from the employment contract that she brought the employment to an end through the use of the letter titled Withdrawal of Services”
“From all that have been said above, the case of the Claimant succeeds as follows: claim 1 Fails; claim 2 Fails; claim 3 Fails, claim 4 Succeeds; claim 5 Succeeds in part. The success of Claim 5 is limited to the sum of N2,174,00 deducted as car status loan; claim 6 Succeeds in part. The success of Claim 6 is limited to the sum of N2,174,00 deducted as car status loan, claim 7 Succeeds; claim 8 Fails; claim 9 Fails for given the circumstances, this Court is not moved to grant a 20% interest rate and claims 10 Fails for given the circumstances of this case, this court is not moved to award litigation cost for the Claimant.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the declaration/order(s) of the Court are as follows: The Court Hereby Declares that the defendant is in arrears of N18,114,600 million, in the payment of the Claimant’s gratuity.
“The Court Hereby Declares that the deduction of the sum of N2, 147, 210 million as money for status car from the Claimant’s gratuity was wrong.
“the court hereby orders the Defendant to pay to the claimant the sum of N2, 147, 210 million deducted from the Claimant’s gratuity as money for status car.
“The Court Hereby Orders the defendant to pay to the claimant the sum of N18, 114, 600 million, being shortfall in the gratuity paid to her.
“All judgment sums shall attract a 2.5 percent interest rate from the date of judgment until the judgment sum is fully paid