Lagos – His Lordship, Hon. Justice Benedict Kanyip of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria, Lagos Judicial Division has validated the suspension of Yunus Adewale Adefowope from work by MTN Nigerian Communications Ltd, also declared the employment termination as wrongful for non-compliance with the term of the contract.
The Court held that no competent suit before the court that the claimant has not prayed for any relief in the statement of facts, declared that claimant would be entitled to the sum of N1,962,892.33 as damages for wrongful termination.
By the complaint (but not the statement of facts), the claimant sought against defendant among others for A declaration that the suspension of the claimant as contained in the defendant’s letter dated 3rd February 2016 is unlawful, null and void. A declaration that the termination of the appointment of the claimant as contained in defendant’s letter dated 15th June 2016 is wrongful, illegal, null and void.
Likewise, An order setting aside the suspension and termination of the appointment of the claimant and the sum of N200 million damages for wrongful suspension and termination of appointment.
The claimant was a senior manager with the defendant until when he received a text message on 25th January 2016 inviting him to an interview. At the interview, the defendant alleged that the claimant had an interest in another company which he denied.
He received a suspension letter from on 3rd February 2016 and was not contacted until 15th June 2016 when his appointment was terminated. On 21st July 2016, he received an email from Human Relations (HR) Department intimating him of his exit computation.
The claimant’s stated that his termination was wrongful that the defendant kept his fate hanging by the suspension letter, making it impossible for him to secure another job before the termination of his employment.
The defendant maintained that the claimant’s contract of employment specifically stated that either party could terminate it on 30 days’ written notice that following the said termination, the defendant calculated and paid him his full terminal benefits urged the Court to dismiss the suit with substantial costs.
The claimant urged the Court to hold that he has been greatly wronged and his fate, hope, and aspirations shattered by acts committed by the defendant.
After careful evaluation of all the processes filed, and the submissions of the learned Counsel from both sides, the Court presided by Hon. Justice Benedict Kanyip held that employer has the disciplinary powers to suspend an employee for purposes of investigating an infraction or as punishment for an infraction.
“This being the case, the claimant has not shown to this Court that his suspension was unnecessary, unreasonable, invalid and unlawful. In any event, under cross-examination, the claimant testified that he was paid his full salary while on suspension. I accordingly hold that the claimant’s suspension was lawful.
“…in terminating the claimant’s appointment with effect from 16th June 2016, Exhibit C16 (letter of termination) of the same date terminated the claimant’s appointment with immediate effect. This means that the termination was without notice.
“The statement in Exhibit C16 that ‘adequate payment in lieu of the applicable notice of this termination shall be paid to you’ does not meet the legal requirement of payment in lieu of notice, which is that payment must be made contemporaneously with the termination. For this additional reason, the termination is wrongful. I so find and hold.
“In the instant case, in the claimant’s originating processes, only the complaint indicated the reliefs the claimant seeks in this case. The statement of facts does not have the reliefs. Rather, it is in paragraph 24 of the claimant’s statement on oath that the claimant simply adopted the reliefs as per the complaint.
“What we have, therefore, is a complaint and a statement on oath claiming reliefs that are not in the statement of facts. Is there validly any relief before the Court? The law is that as between the complaint (writ of summons) and statement of facts (statement of claim), it is the latter that predominates in the event of conflict."
On the whole, his Lordship held that no competent suit before the court that the claimant has not prayed for any relief in the statement of facts, and declared that claimant would be entitled to the sum of N1,962,892.33 as damages for wrongful termination.