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Industrial Court orders First Bank to pay late staff's death benefit within 30 days

464 Wednesday 18th August 2021

The Presiding Judge, Portharcourt Judicial division of the National Industrial Court, His Lordship, Hon. Justice Faustina Kola-Olalere has ordered First Bank of Nigeria to write Mr. Chukwu Ori (Administrator of the Estate of Mrs. Chika Chukwu) a sympathy letter to be signed by the Managing Director/Chief Executive with the payment of the sum of N963, 504.68 as the deceased/employee’s death benefit with payment of Two Hundred and Fifty Thousand Naira cost of action within 30 days.

However, Justice Kola-Olalere further held that Mr. Chukwu Ori failed to satisfy the Court on how he came about the sum of Four Million Naira being claimed as compensation under the Workmen’s Compensation Act.

From facts, the claimant- Mr. Chukwu Ori had deposed that the bank only paid a one-year basic salary of his deceased wife who prior to her demise in 2006 was an employee of the bank to assist the family with burial expenses and has failed to pay the other entitlements despite repeated demands.

In defense, the defendant- First Bank maintained that they have paid the amount of money payable to the family of its late staff upon her death; and averred that the bank insurer for the death of the deceased employee was paid less of the deceased indebted to the Bank. 

The Firm counsel, Rotimi Aremu Esq submitted that the action of the Mr Chukwu is statute-barred and liable to be dismissed on the ground that the action was filed over five (5) years provided under the Limitation Law of Rivers State and further that Mr. Chukwu has failed to show his right to demand, neither as the husband of the deceased nor as a dependant of the deceased. 

Counsel argued that the Letter of Administration issued in Mr Chukwu favour is just a letter of authority to an administrator, not evidence of a marriage between the Claimant and the deceased.

Counsel further submitted that the bank is not a necessary party to the suit, as the compensation due (if any) to the Claimant is to be borne by The Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund Management Board, urged the Court to dismiss the claim in its entirety.

In opposition, Chukwu counsel, J. U. Ikorogbudu Esq maintained that a dependent is someone who relies wholly or partly on the income of the deceased employee, denied that the deceased was indebted to the Defendant; urged the court to assume jurisdiction and grant the reliefs sought.

Delivering the judgment after careful evaluation of the submission of both parties, the presiding judge, Justice Kola-Olalere dismissed the objections and held that from May 11, 2009, when the case in question was filed in Rivers State High Court to September 23, 2016 when it was struck out for lack of jurisdiction the limitation period stopped running then continued running again from September 24, 2016 to August 18, 2017 when the action was filed in this court.

The court held that the deceased was not indebted to the bank before she died as no document was shown to prove to the contrary

“The Defendant has admitted receipt of the sum of N963,504.68 from its Insurer for the death of the deceased employee; therefore, I hold that the Defendant is to pay to the Claimant, the admitted sum of N963,504.68 (Nine Hundred and Sixty-Three Thousand, Five Hundred and Four Naira, Sixty-Eight Kobo) only as “the deceased/employee’s death in service benefit” in line with the provision of clause 5.8.3 (d) of Exhibit C.5 before the Court in this case.” Justice Kola-Olalere

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