3SC Ordered To Pay Ex-Trainer N3.263m Unpaid Salaries

Justice John Dele Peters of the Ibadan, Oyo State division of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN), has ordered Shooting Stars Sport Club Limited, a.k.a. 3SC, to pay the sum of N3, 013, 845 million, to its former trainer, Akinloye Alexander Adedotun, whose salary arbitrarily stopped.

Justice Peters also declared that the decision of 3SC to summarily stop paying the salary of the Trainer without any notice or communication is illegal, contrary to the rules of natural justice, equity and good conscience, and flagrant breach of the employment contract between the Trainer and 3SC.

The judge also ordered 3SC to pay another N250, 000, to its former trainer as const of instituting the suit.

Above orders and many more were the decisions of Justice Peters in a judgment delivered on April 27, 2023, on a suit filed against 3SC by its former trainer of the feeder team of the club.

The former 3SC’s feeder team trainer, Adedotun had dragged the football club before the court in a suit marked NICN/IB/26/2021, for stop paying him salaries without any notice or communication.

The trainer in his General Form of Complaint dated and filed March 25, 21, by his lawyers, T. A. Olatunji and Tolu Ogunjobi, sought the following reliefs against the 3SC: “A declaration that the decision of the Defendant to summarily stop paying the salary of the Claimant without any notice or communication is illegal, contrary to the rules of natural justice, equity and good conscience, and flagrant breach of the employment contract between the Claimant and Defendant.

“A declaration that the Claimant is entitled to all his just entitlements, salaries under the employment contract between him and the Defendant.

“An Order directing the Defendant to pay to the Claimant the sum of N3, 013, 845 million, being the outstanding of his salary which the defendant failed to pay from November, 2015 till February, 2021.

“An order awarding pre-judgment and 10 percent post judgment interest on his outstanding salaries.

“An Order granting and other reliefs that the Court may find the Claimant entitled to ‘ex debito justice’. And the cost of the avoidable but provoked action.”

The football club, 3SC, which was represented by a lawyer, Abayomi Alawode, during the trial of the matter, did not file any reaction in defence of this suit, despite that all the originating processes and hearing notices were dully served on the defendant.

Justice Peters after listening to the applicant’s counsel submissions, as well admitted all the exhibits tendered, …….

Justice Peters in his judgment held that: “I have read and understood all the processes filed by the learned Counsel to the Claimant. I listened attentively to the oral evidence of the Claimant at trial, watched his demeanor and carefully evaluated all the exhibits tendered and admitted. Having done all this, I set down a lone issue for the determination of this case thus: “Whether the claimant has adduced sufficiently cogent and credible evidence to warrant a grant of all or some of the reliefs sought against the defendant.”

“The law remains trite with replete of judicial decisions of the appellate Court in support of same that the burden of proof is always on he who approaches the Court for reliefs against his adversary. The burden is discharged by adducing cogent, credible and admissible evidence which evidence may be documentary or oral or both. The required burden is not dispensed with as in the instant case where the defendant did not file any defence. Thus the mere fact of absence of defence does not confer on the claimant herein an automatic positive judicial disposition. Indeed an individual sued is not obliged to defend such a suit. For, refusal to defend a suit may as well be an indication of the defendant’s readiness to abide by the decision of the Court.

“The first 2 reliefs are declaratory in nature. The first is for a declaration that the decision of the defendant to summarily stop paying the salary of the claimant without any notice or communication is illegal, contrary to the rules of natural justice, equity and good conscience and flagrant breach of the employment contract between the Claimant and Defendant. The second is for a declaration that the claimant is entitled to all his just entitlements, salaries under the employment contract between him and the Defendant. 

“The law is trite that declaratory reliefs are not granted as a matter of course. They are not even granted on admission of the other party. In other words, to be entitled to a grant of a declaratory relief, a party must adduce sufficiently cogent and credible evidence in support of his case.

“In support of the declaratory reliefs sought, the claimant testified in chief and tendered Exh. AD1 his letter of contract appointment establishing the fact of his appointment. Claimant also tendered Exh. AD2 and Exh. AD3 his Bank statements of accounts. Indeed, Exh. AD3 attested to the fact that the last time the defendant paid any money to the claimant was on February 15, 2017 the sum of N25,887.50. The claimant also led evidence to a demand made on his behalf to the defendant on July 8, 2019, through Exh. AD4. 

“All the evidence led by the claimant was not in any way controverted. The defendant had opportunities to challenge the averments and evidence led. It failed to do so. The law is trite, UBA Plc v. Patkan Ventures Ltd (2017) LPELR-42392(CA), that a Court of law is entitled to evaluate an unchallenged evidence to see if it supports the claims before it and rely on it if credible. I find the evidence of the Claimant reliable and unchallenged. 

“Accordingly I grant the first and second declaratory reliefs sought. I declare that the decision of the defendant to summarily stop paying the salary of the Claimant without any notice or communication is illegal, contrary to the rules of natural justice, equity and good conscience, and flagrant breach of the employment contract between the claimant and defendant. In much the same vein, I declare that the Claimant is entitled to all his just entitlements, salaries under the employment contract between him and the Defendant.

“The third relief is for an order directing the defendant to pay to the claimant the sum of N3, 013, 845 million, being the claimant’s outstanding salary which the defendant failed to pay from November, 2015 till February, 2021. In paragraphs 13 and 14 of his witness deposition of March 25, 2021 which he adopted as his evidence in chief the Claimant gave a detailed analysis of how he arrived at the amount sought as his outstanding salaries with the Defendant. Again, his evidence remained unchallenged notwithstanding that the Defendant had opportunities to do so. In the absence of any evidence to the contrary this Court has no choice than to accept the evidence of the Claimant as a true reflection of the state of affairs between him and the Defendant. 

“The defendant is therefore ordered to pay to the Claimant the sum of N3, 013, 845 million, being the outstanding of his salary which the defendant failed to pay from November, 2015 till February, 2021.

 “The issue of pre-judgment interest was brought to the fore in Shedowo v. A. G Lagos State (2019) LPELR-46886(CA) and in refusing to grant pre judgment interest, Ogakwu JCA said inter alia, “Pre-judgment interest must not only be specifically claimed, but evidence must be adduced in proof of it, failing which it will not be awarded by a Court. The award of pre-judgment interest can be made where it is contemplated in the agreement between the parties, under a mercantile custom and under the principle of equity such as breach of fiduciary relationship. 

“In the statement of facts and claimant’s witness deposition and indeed the entire case of the claimant no evidence was led respecting entitlement to pre judgment interest. None of the exhibits tendered and admitted made any allusion to such entitlement. It occurs to me therefore that there is no basis, on the prevailing judicial authorities to base the grant of any pre judgment interest to the Claimant in this case. Accordingly, I refuse and dismiss the prayer for pre judgment interest.

“Respecting an order for an award of a post judgment interest, Order 47 Rule 7 of the Rules of this Court allows the Court to award a post judgment interest of not less than 20 percent. Accordingly, the defendant is to pay the entire sum due under and by virtue of the Judgment with interest of 20 percent per annum from today until final liquidation. The defendant shall also pay to the claimant the sum of Two Hundred and Fifty Thousand Naira only as the cost of this action.

“Finally, for the avoidance of doubt and for all the reasons as contained in this Judgment, I declare that the decision of the defendant to summarily stop paying the salary of the Claimant without any notice or communication is illegal, contrary to the rules of natural justice, equity and good conscience, and flagrant breach of the employment contract between the Claimant and Defendant.

“I declare that the claimant is entitled to all his just entitlements, salaries under the employment contract between him and the defendant.

“The defendant is ordered to pay the claimant the sum of N3, 013, 845 million, being the outstanding salary of the claimant which the Defendant failed to pay from November 2015 to February, 2021.

“The defendant is ordered to pay the entire Judgment sum N3, 013, 845 million, due under and by virtue of the Judgment with interest of 20 percent per annum from today until final liquidation.

“The defendant shall also pay to the claimant the sum of Two Hundred and Fifty Thousand Naira only as the cost of this action. All the terms of this judgment shall be complied with immediately. Judgment is entered accordingly.”