His Lordship, Hon. Justice Zaynab Bashir of the National Industrial Court, Portharcourt Judicial division, has declared the stoppage of pension payment to Mr. Samuel Uguru by Union Bank of Nigeria as not wrongful in view of the provision of the law, dismissed the suit for lacking merit
The court held that the entire facts and circumstances of the case as buttressed by the evidence before the court does not establish any form of malice or intent to wrong the Claimant.
The Claimant Mr. Samuel Uguru had sought against defendant Union Bank of Nigeria for A declaration that it is improper for the Defendant to retrospectively stop the payment of the Claimant’s Pension or salary under the Defined Benefits Scheme (DBS) pursuant to the amended Pension Reform Act of 2014.
An order of the Honorable Court directing the Defendant to immediately pay the Claimant all his pension arrears from the month of November 2015 till judgment and thereafter continue to pay the Pension in line with Labour prevailing rate till death.
Likewise, the sum of N100,000,000.00 (One Hundred Million Naira) only representing general damages.
The case of the Claimant is that he was a staff of the Defendant and had served in various branches until he retired upon his voluntary resignation, effective on the 2nd day of February 2006.
Claimant posited that employees of the Defendant who had served for not less than 10 years shall be entitled to the pension. On the 20th January 2006, he wrote the Defendant for voluntary retirement, the Defendant replied his letter and stated that he can resign his appointment and still be entitled to pension effective from the age of 45 years. The Defendant advised him that he cannot retire from the Defendant until he attains the age of 60 unless he gives 12 months’ notice although he can resign.
The application for the resignation was granted and was paid pension for nine years until it was stopped in October 2015.
The claimant made inquiries as to why the pension payment was stopped; learnt that the Defendant had reversed the Claimant’s pension from Defined Benefit Scheme (DBS) to Contributory Pension Scheme.
The Claimant contended that it was not stated in his employment letter that the Defendant should not pay his pension to Pension Administrators.
The Defendant posited that the payment of pension was regulated by the provision of the Deed of Variation of Trust Deed (2004) that notwithstanding they commenced payment of pension to the Claimant but only under the in-house scheme guided by the Trust Deed, but upon coming to effect of the Pension Reform Act 2004, payment of pension directly to the Claimant and other pensioners became a gross violation of the Act between 2012 and 2014.
The Trust Deed also provided for early retirement after attaining the age of 45 years upon giving the Defendant 12 calendar months of intention to retire but the Claimant tendered his letter of voluntary resignation on 20th day of January 2006 advising the bank of his intention to voluntarily retire with effect from 2nd February 2006; thereby giving the defendant only 13 days’ notice contrary to twelve calendar months as provided in article 9 in page 12 of the Trust Deed (2004).
Counsel to the Defendant, Collins Owobu with M.N. Ejekwu Esq added that the defendant has rightfully fulfilled his obligation under the Reformed Pension Act 2014 by transferring the claimant to a pension fund administrator urged the court to reject the claims of the Claimant and dismiss the case.
Counsel to the Claimant formulated for determination whether the Claimant who resigned from the Defendant effective 2/2/2006 and was placed on immediate pension pursuant to Pension Reform Act 2004 would be bound by the Amended Pension Reform Act 2014 with respect to his said resignation and or Pension in 2006.
The presiding Judge, Hon. Justice Zaynab Bashir after careful evaluation of the counsel submission expressed thus;
“Consequent upon the foregoing, it is without doubt that at the time the Claimant resigned his appointment with the Defendant on the 2nd of February, 2006 and his resignation was followed up with payment of pension, the applicable Pension Reform Act was that of 2004 and I so hold.
“Upon evaluation of Deed of Variation of Trust Deed, I reckon that the period of ten years mentioned in paragraph 8 is a qualifying period for entitlement to a benefit. In other words, the Claimant having served for more than ten years was qualified to apply for voluntary retirement but that did not erase the need to give the 12 months’ notice which he jettisoned.
“Consequent upon the foregoing, I find that the Claimant was not qualified for exemption from being categorized under the Contributory Pension Scheme introduced by the Pension Reform Act 2004.
In the final analysis, the court held that the case of the Claimant lacks merit and the same was accordingly dismissed.