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Industrial Court awards cost for Chuwwuemeka wrongful termination, orders firm to give necessary support for overseas terminal benefits

337 Thursday 20th May 2021

The Presiding Judge, Enugu Judicial division of the National Industrial Court, His Lordship, Hon. Justice Oluwakayode Arowosegbe has declared the employment termination of Chigbo Chukwuemeka as wrongful, ordered Total Nigeria Plc to pay Chukwuemeka a  month salary in lieu of notice as stipulated by the PENGASSAN collective agreement within 30 days.


The Court further ordered the firm to render all necessary assistance to Chukwuemeka to process his overseas terminal benefits to 14th October 2016 with the sum of 100,000 costs of action.


From facts, the claimant- Chigbo Chukwuemeka had submitted that the letter of termination was not served on him till 2019 and was suddenly shut out of the company network system in 2016, without being told of his offense nor query. 


He pleaded further that, his salaries were stopped and despite several attempts to find out what he did wrong, all to no avail that due process as enshrined in the PENGASSAN Collective Agreement was not followed, urged the court to grant the reliefs sought.


He further pleaded that he went to PortHarcourt as directed for his termination letter but was informed that the termination had been cancelled because of the union’s intervention and was not issued with a letter of termination needed to process his retirement benefits.


In defense, the defendant- Total Nigeria Plc maintained that the panel found the case of the Chukwuemeka riddled with serious inconsistencies and therefore recommended his termination; effected by the letter dated October 6, 2016, and served on the claimant, but he refused to acknowledge a copy; that Chukwuemeka employment had been duly terminated with effect from 14 October 2016.


The defendant also counterpleaded that, as the claimant had not done his handover, he has not been issued the Defipro Benefit Form that staff communicate directly with their pension administrator and not through the company. 


In opposition, Chukwuemeka replied that he approached his pension administrator after receipt of the letter of termination in 2019 as an interim measure due to financial constraints and; that, up till date; the defendant has refused to confirm that the claimant’s employment had been terminated that, the cases of misconducts were concocted urged the court to dismiss the firm assertion and grant the relief sought.


The learned counsel to the firm, Bimbo Atilola Esq expressed that Chukwuemeka who failed to produce evidence of his membership of PENGASSAN, as senior staff, could not rely on the PENGASSAN Collective Agreement, and that the claimant, who has collected his pension, couldn’t come to Court to challenge his termination, urged the Court to hold that the case is baseless.


Delivering the judgment after listening carefully to the submission of both parties, the presiding Judge, Justice Oluwakayode Arowosegbe held that the Chukwuemeka did not plead and lead evidence to show that he was re-admitted to access the company’s system from which he was blocked out and no evidence that his salary that was stopped was restored. 


The Court held that the Chukwuemeka employment was terminated and handed over the letter of termination the very day he went to Port Harcourt for the letter that the termination date of the claimant’s employment is 14th October 2016 as contained in the letter of termination.


However, the Court further held that the termination was wrongful that Chukwuemeka was not suspended before the termination and no evidence of payment in lieu of notice as prescribed by the PENGASSAN Collective Agreement.

 

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