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[Just In] Industrial Court dismisses case against former employee, awards cost

692 Monday 17th May 2021

His Lordship, Hon. Justice Ikechi Nweneka of the National Industrial Court, Lagos Judicial Division has dismissed the case filed by ATB Solutions limited against her former staff Eniola Ake over alleged breach of contract agreement in its entirety for lacking merit.

The Court held that granting the restraining injunction against Eniola will be an affront to the 1999 constitution as amended, awarded the cost of N150,000 against the firm.

From facts, the claimant-ATS solutions employed the defendant-Eniola Ake, and subsequently executed an Employment Bond Agreement, Eniola undertook to pay a one-year gross salary to the firm if she disengages before the expiration of three years employment bond.

The firm sought for the sum of N1, 419,840.00 as a one-year gross salary and an order of the Court restraining the defendant from soliciting and or diverting the firm’s clients or any other competitor as agreed under the terms of employment among others.

In defense, the defendant- Eniola stated that the Court frowns at any covenant which restricts the mobility of an employee, argued that the Court should not enforce the contract because there is no evidence that the firm offered her anything extra, aside from employment, that the suit is frivolous, speculative and abuse of Court’s process and should be dismissed with substantial cost.

In opposition, the firm maintains that Eniola’s reason for resignation is an attempt to avoid her obligations, and submitted that the defense of being frustrated out of employment is a sham and an afterthought that the employment bond is enforceable urged the Court to so hold.

Delivery the judgment via virtual proceeding, the presiding judge, Justice Ikechi Nweneka held that the firm has not shown that the restriction of Eniola’s is reasonable in all the circumstances of the case and nothing whatsoever to show what investments made on her to bind her to its business for three years. 

Justice Nweneka further held an employer cannot protect itself from competition from a former employee or the employee’s exercise of his skill simply because such skill was acquired when the employee was in the employer’s business.

“In the final analysis, this case fails in its entirety and it is hereby dismissed. Pursuant to Order 55 Rule 1 of the Rules, and the fact that Defendant has been put to unreasonable expenses in defending this suit, cost of N150, 000 is awarded in favour of the Defendant against the Claimant.” Justice Nweneka

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