The Presiding Judge, Kaduna Judicial division of the National Industrial Court, His Lordship, Hon. Justice Sinmisola Adeniyi has ordered NNPC and Kaduna Refinery & Petro - Chemical Company to pay Seven former staff unpaid arrears of pension held for over 14 years within 30 days.
The Court held that a community reading of the whole of the section relating to disengagement in defendants conditions of service when services no longer required, that the actual and real intent is retirement and not termination.
From facts, the Claimants alleged that they served for a period of more ten (10) years before their appointments were terminated on the ground that their services were no longer required, contended that they were qualified for the payment of pension and gratuity by the provisions of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Staff Conditions of Service which governed their respective appointments that the Defendants failed and neglected to pay their pension which was their accrued rights.
However, the Defendants contended that the Claimants’ disengagement was not voluntary or compulsory that the provision of the NNPC Conditions of Service on retirement is not applicable to them that the Claimants did not all serve for more than ten (10) years before the termination of their appointments as alleged; that all the Claimants except the 7th Claimant have been paid their terminal benefits; that the gratuity paid to the 1st - 6th Claimants was on compassionate grounds and that the Claimants have not all attained the age of 45 years to be entitled to pension.
Learned Claimants’ counsel argued that the termination of the Claimants’ appointments for services no longer required does not in any way deprive them of their inalienable right to pension urged the Court to reject the arguments that the term termination and dismissal have the same meaning.
Delivering Judgment, the presiding Judge, Justice Adeniyi held that services no longer required is not listed as one of the grounds for termination as provided in the defendants Conditions of Service and also that the termination of the Claimants was not shown to be based on any allegation of misconduct proven against them to warrant the termination of their appointments.
“My finding, therefore, is that the Claimants service with the Defendants is for over ten years and that they all had attained the age of forty-five years.
“Without mincing words, the act of withholding the Claimants’ pension for over fourteen (14) years has occasioned untold hardship on the Claimants, some of whom are now deceased.
“I agree with the learned counsel for the Claimants that the withholding of the pension of the Claimants by the Defendants is unconstitutional and unlawful. I so hold.” Justice Adeniyi ruled.
The Court ordered defendants forthwith to pay to DANJUMA SULEIMAN, MRS LOLA OLOYEDE and ALIYU AMINU, the sum of N2,940,000.00, N7,200,000.00, N2,340,000 respectively being the unpaid arrears of pension until they were deceased and UMAR YA’U gratuity.
Lastly, the Defendants are also ordered to pay to the 4th, 5th and 6th Claimants forthwith the sum of Fifteen Million, Four Hundred and Eighty Thousand Naira being the unpaid arrears of pension that has accumulated in their favour and Five Million Naira general damages for the economic, financial and psychological hardship suffered due to the withholding the Claimants’ pension for several years by the Defendants within 30 days.