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Industrial Court orders First Bank to pay Ex-Staff Ikechukwu Nworah N1.5m, Pension Contribution within 30 days

341 Monday 24th May 2021

His Lordship, Hon. Justice Polycarp Hamman of the Portharcourt Judicial division of the National Industrial Court has ordered First Bank of Nigeria to pay her former Banking officer Mr. Ikechukwu Nworah the sum of N266,950.68 as salary in lieu of notice, N925,045.14 as 2012 pay for performance; 5% aggregate of basic, housing, transport and lunch contribution plus 10% contribution from the date of effective contribution to the pension scheme, with the sum of Four Hundred Thousand Naira (N400,000.00) cost of action within 30 days.

The court declared that no basis for the summary dismissal of Mr. Ikechukwu from the bank.

From facts, the claimant- Mr. Ikechukwu Nworah had submitted that the entire proceedings of the Disciplinary Committee where an allegation of misconduct was leveled against him and based on which he was purportedly summarily dismissed without being accorded an opportunity to defend himself violated his right to a fair hearing, sought for the sum of N266,950.68 being monthly salary with effect from December 2012 with 10% interest thereon until judgment is delivered and 5% interest thereafter until the said amount is fully liquidated among others.

He submitted further that he appeared before the Defendant’s Disciplinary Committee three times and while he was given a fair hearing in the first and second appearances, that for the 3rd appearance he was not heard because the Committee informed him that he had been exonerated having been recalled from suspension, paid all his entitlements that a new allegation was raised against him and was not given an opportunity to explain himself before his dismissal.

In defense, the defendant- First Bank maintained that the conduct Ikechukwu on negligence constitutes gross misconduct that Ikechukwu and other staff involved were given opportunities of being heard by the Disciplinary Committee before they were dismissed, urged the court to dismiss the case in its entirety with cost.

In addition, the firm posited that since the Management Committee is the highest decision making organ of the bank, that any recommendation made by the Disciplinary Committee to Management Committee can be accepted, refused, or modified as MANCO deemed fit that recall from suspension does not mean an end to the litigation.

In opposition, the claimant counsel Sylvester S. Popnen with I. L. Igoma posited that a dismissal based on the outcome of a proceeding which was conducted in breach of natural justice cannot stand, that the firm who alleged that their client was negligent, careless, and improperly performed his duty did not furnish the particulars of such negligence to enable the Court to decide same, urged the court to grant all the reliefs sought.

After careful perusal of the submission of both parties, delivering the judgment via virtual proceeding, the presiding judge, Hon. Justice Polycarp Hamman held that nothing in bank Employee’s Handbook that a suspended employee could be recalled from suspension and paid his salaries while the investigations against him continue.     

“It is therefore no longer fashionable for employers to just dismiss their workers whether summarily or not without giving any justification for such action. Labour law has evolved and the common law position that employees in master/servant relationship could be dismissed without justification cannot be acceptable in the present labour law jurisprudence.

“While the defendant has the discretion to mete out a lesser punishment it cannot go beyond the punishment prescribed in the terms and conditions of the employment. There was no basis for the summary dismissal of the claimant. I so find and hold.” Justice Polycarp Hamman ruled.

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