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The court has exclusive jurisdiction in civil causes and matters relating to or connected with any labour, employment, trade unions, industrial relations and matters arising from workplace, the conditions of service, including health, safety, welfare of labour, employee, worker and matter incidental thereto or connected therewith.

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Industrial Court dismisses N8.5m gratuity claim against Heritage Bank


350 Tuesday 8th November 2022

The Presiding Judge, Portharcourt Judicial division of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria, Hon. Justice Faustina Kola-Olalere has dismissed the N8.5m gratuity and N5m damages claims by one Mr. Babayemi Ogunyele against Heritage Bank Limited for lack of proof.


Justice Kola-Olalere held that Mr. Babayemi Ogunyele did not refer the Court to any term in his conditions of employment agreed to by the parties that entitles him to the terminal benefit claim and the Court does not know the mathematical formula he used in calculating the said claimed sum and there was no evidence given to back up the claim.


From facts, the Claimant- Mr. Babayemi Ogunyele had submitted that he was offered employment as a Banking Officer with effect from April 2, 2001 by Fountain Trust Bank as Head of Administration in charge of facilities management, plants and machineries. That he was placed on wheel chair due to an injury sustained in a car accident while answering the call of duty in 2002 and after his hospitalization; he resumed work on July 1, 2004 pursuant to the Heritage Bank predecessor’s letter dated June 21, 2004. 


The claimant went on that when Defendant’s predecessor metamorphosis to Spring Bank Plc. in 2006; he was absorbed as a staff of the bank and was given the post of an Assistant Manager. Nevertheless, his appointment was surprisingly terminated in 2009 without any query, warning or complaint, sought for the payment of N8.5m as gratuity and N5m as damages.


In defense, the defendant- Heritage Bank denied Mr. Babayemi's assertion and submitted that Spring Bank employed him (Mr. Babayemi) as staff from the Legacy Banks based on requirements and that the Claimant was given a fresh appointment. 


The Bank maintained that Mr. Babayemi’s appointment was terminated according to the conditions of service in his letter of appointment and was paid all his benefits as calculated under the Bank Gratuity Scheme, urged the court to dismiss the case.


In opposition, Mr. Babayemi's counsel maintained that there is nothing in the letter “Offer of Employment” of April 28, 2006 that justified termination of the appointment of the Claimant with immediate effect. 


Learned Counsel submitted further that his client's employment was not determined in line with the existing guidelines as contained in the Staff Handbook and that the Claimant is entitled to be paid a sum of N8,510,766.00 only, which is his total emolument for a period of three years as terminal benefit; having been in the employment of the Defendant for more than five years.


In its well-considered judgment after careful analysis of the submission of both parties, the presiding Judge, Justice Faustina Kola-Olalere found that the content of the letter of offer issued by the Spring Bank integrates Mr. Babayemi’s earlier employment in Fountain Trust Bank and held that the claimant worked with the defendants for more than 8 years as at the time of termination of his employment. 


However, Justice Kola-Olalere stated that the claims of Mr. Babayemi as endorsed on his Amended Complaint and Amended Statement of Facts are not challenging the way his appointment was determined, neither is he seeking for any relief for wrongful termination of his employment, but seeking for payment of a specified sum of money as his terminal benefit and also for payment of general damages for delay in paying the claimed sum for his terminal benefits as the law is that, the Court cannot grant a relief not sought before it.


The Court held that Mr. Babayemi is not entitled to any relief on wrongful determination as intensely argued for in his final address because he did not specifically seek for any relief in his Amended Complaint filed as address of counsel no matter how brilliant cannot take the place of pleading and evidence.


Justice Kola-Olalere held that Mr. Babayemi has not discharged the burden of proof placed on him in establishing the claim to the satisfaction of the Court, and the Court does not know the mathematical formula the claimant used in calculating the said claimed sum and there was no evidence given to back up the claim.


“More importantly, because the main claim of the claimant for the sum of N8, 510,766.00 terminal benefit has failed, his ancillary claim for N5Million General Damages must also fail as it cannot stand on its own. This claim for General Damages is hereby refused and accordingly dismissed.”

 
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