The Presiding Judge, Portharcourt Judicial Division of the National Industrial Court, Hon. Justice Faustina Kola-Olalere FCIArb has declared the employment termination of Emmanuel Ogbonnia and 18 others by Baker Hughes Company via redundancy as wrongful.
The Court held that employment termination of Emmanuel Ogbonnia and 18 others was done in violation of the Labour Act and the International Labour Organization Convention Protocols, awarded the sum of N7.6m (Seven Million, Six Hundred Thousand Naira) only as compensation for the wrongful employment termination and N3.8m (Three Million, Eight Hundred Thousand Naira) costs of action against the firm.
However, the Court held that Emmanuel Ogbonnia and 18 others are not entitled to the sum of N144m redundancy benefits, USD49,400.00 one year medical contribution as End of Service Benefits under the Voluntary Release Program (VRP) and was dismissed accordingly.
From facts, the claimant- Emmanuel Ogbonnia, and 18 others had submitted that by policies of the defendants including the Voluntary Release Program (VRP), which did not at any time provide for redundancy and the defendants embarked on redundancy exercise without following the procedure provided for in the Labour Act and also failed, refused and/neglected to pay their redundancy package.
In a further submission, the claimants posited that Martin Craighead and Baker Hughes Incorporated were co-employers with the Baker Hughes Company because the firm acted on their behalf.
In defense, the defendants averred that Martin Craighead and Baker Hughes Incorporated are not in any way responsible for the act of Baker Hughes Company and that the so-called Voluntary Release Programme (VRP) heavily relied upon by Amadi, was never introduced, developed, or applied in Nigeria, neither was it provided for in the Claimants’ Contract of Employment nor incorporated by reference into the said Contract of Employment.
The defendants continued that even though the word “Redundancy” was used in the notice issued to Emmanuel Ogbonnia and 18 others in terminating their employment, the termination was done in line with their employment contract, and was paid all their entitlements.
In opposition, the learned Counsel Emmanuel Ogbonnia and 18 others maintained that since the termination of his clients' Contract of Employment was not approved by the Minister through the DPR as required, that the purported two weeks basic salary paid is a violation of principles of calculation of Redundancy payment which takes into consideration length of service, age and health before declaring the claimants redundant, urged the court to grant the reliefs sought.
Delivering the Judgment after careful evaluation of the submission of both parties, the presiding Judge, Justice Faustina Kola-Olalere held that Emmanuel Ogbonnia and 18 others have discharged the onus of how their contract of employment was breached contrary to the terms and conditions of their employment and the provision of the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry Content Development Act, 2010; Act No. 2 and its Guidelines are not relevant to the case at hand.
The Court further held that Emmanuel Ogbonnia and 18 others failed woefully to prove to the satisfaction of the Court that Martin Craighead and Baker Hughes Incorporated (1st and 2nd Defendants) were their employers, and struck out their names for being wrongly joined.
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