Court Fines Dangote N745k For Withholding Staff’s Entitlements

The Lokoja, Kogi State Division of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN), has declared Dangote Cement’s act of withholding Mr. Malafa AbdulAzeez’s salaries and entitlements as unlawful, abusive and oppressive.

Consequently, Justice Oyebiola Oyewumi, who presided over the court, has awarded the sum of N645,780.00, the equivalent of Malafa’s 3 months’ salary as damages and N100, 000 as cost of action.

Delivering judgment in the suit filed by Malafa against the cement company, Justice Oyewumi held that; “an employee is entitled to his wages, as withholding it amounts to withholding the very life of that employee or sniffing life out of him.”

Justice Oyewumi also ruled that the non-payment of Mr. Malafa’s salaries and entitlement is illegal, unlawful and unconscionable and should be paid forthwith. 

From facts before the court the Claimant, Malafa had submitted that he was employed by Dangote Cement in 2003 and after his employment was terminated on 13th May 2019, he went to the office in line with the directive in the letter of termination to finalize the release of his salaries/entitlements and was told that he will not be paid. 

Malafa contended that the non-payment of his salaries and entitlements by the company since September 2018 (except February 2019) is illegal, unlawful, abusive and humiliating.

However, the defendant, Dangote Cement made a physical appearance but failed to file any defence to the suit.

The Claimant’s Counsel, Nyenke Ikpendu C.J., had told the court that the failure of the firm to call evidence in the matter should be adjudged that the company has no defence to the action and his client has proven his entitlement to the reliefs sought by his unchallenged statement on oath, urged the court to grant the reliefs sought.

In a well-considered judgment delivered on December 22, 2022, Justice Oyewumi noted that the failure of Dangote Cement to cross-examine Malafa even when given the opportunity to exercise the right operate as a tacit acceptance of the truth of the testimony of the claimant.

Justice Oyewumi held that “the right given to an employer under a master-servant relationship does not include the right to deny an employee his lawfully accrued earnings after the termination of employment. 

“From the above, it is not in doubt that Claimant having worked for the defendant is entitled to be paid and the defendant does not have any power to withhold it and is in law estopped from withholding his salaries and entitlements from him without any justification. An employee is entitled to his wages and he cannot be denied same under any guise or excuse.”

Source -: NICN