Court Orders Nnadabo Energy To Pay Ex-Director 5 Years Salaries Arrears

 

Nnadabo Energy Limited has been ordered by a Lagos division of the National Industrial Court (NICN) to pay the sum of N3, 810, 526. 96, million, to its erstwhile director, Mrs. Courage Nwadiuto Azumurana, being the arrears of her Salary from 2012 to Feb 2016.

The court ordered that the judgment sum must be paid within 30 days of  judgment, after which interest shall accrue on the said amount at the rate of 20 percent per annum.  This is pursuant to Order 47 Rule 7 of the Rules of this Court.   

The Oil firm also directed to hand over the keys and particulars of the CRV car to Mrs. Azumurana, which she has already paid for.

Justice Elizabeth A. Oji, made the above orders and directives, on July 4, 2023 while delivering judgment on a suit filed by Mrs. Azumurana against the defendant, Nnadabo Energy Limited.

The claimant, Mrs. Azumurana, had dragged the oil Firm before the court in a suit marked NICN/LA/438/2018, over alleged unlawful termination of her appointment with the company.

Azumurana in her General Form of Complaint, Statement of Facts, together with the Claimant’s witnesses, the Claimant’s witness on oath, verifying affidavit, list of documents riled through her lawyer, Zingtim Gambo asked the court for nine reliefs against the oil Firm.

The reliefs are: “Judgment in the sum of N5, 231,604. (Five Million, Two Hundred and Thirty-One Thousand, Six Hundred and Four Naira Only) being arrears of salary from 2012 to February 2016

“Judgment in the sum N1,987,080.94 (One Million, Nine Hundred and Eighty-Seven Thousand, Eighty Naira, Ninety-Four Kobo Only) being Pension Arrears from January 2009-February 2016

“Judgment in the sum N1,832,758.20 (One Million, Eight Hundred and Thirty-Two thousand, Seven Hundred and Fifty-Eight Naira, Twenty-Kobo Only) being educational grant which was converted to Director’s Bonus in 2015 by the Alter-ego of the Defendant.

“Judgment in the sum N229, 000,000 (Two Hundred and Twenty-Nine Million Only) being Profit sharing Between 2012- 2016 for transactions initiated and executed by the Claimant.

“Judgment in the sum of N118,898.21 (One Hundred and Eighteen Thousand, Eight Hundred and Ninety-Eight Naira, Twenty-One Kobo Only) being interest accrued for 84 months.

“An Order of the court mandating the Defendant to handover the keys and particulars of the CRV car to the Claimant which has already been paid off.

“General Damages of N50,000,000.00 (Fifty Million Naira Only) for causing the Claimant emotional and psychological trauma.

“Judgment on the above mentioned sums at the rate of 22% per annum from July 5, 2018 till the date of judgment and thereafter, the same rate of 22% per annum until the judgment debt if fully liquidated.

“The costs of this action.”

But Nnadabo Energy Limited in defence of the suit, through its lawyer, U. G Ezeaba, filed a Statement of defence and Counter-Claim, together with a list of defendant’s witness and statement on oath deposed to by Mr. Raphael Zekeri, list of documents and copies of documents to be relied on at the trial. 

Nnadabo Energy Limited’s Counter-claim against the claimant were: “the sum of N1,155,735.01 being the indebtedness of the Claimant to it, after netting the salary and pension arrears to the Claimant with the net book value of the Honda CR-V Car retained by the Claimant after resigning from the Defendant.

“interest on the said sum of N1, 155, 735. 01 at the rate of 25% per annum from June 7, 2016 until judgment and thereafter same interest rate until sum of indebtedness is fully liquidated. And cost of action at N750,000.00.”

During the trial of the suit, the claimant told the court that on 2nd March 2 2016, the Defendant unlawfully suspended her for one month without salary for breach of trust without compliance to her letter of employment or invoking any law. She added that prior to the expiration of the suspension, on March 29, 2016, she resigned her employment with the Defendant as Chief Operating Officer and Director with the intention to forfeit her salary for the month of March 2016 in lieu of notice. 

She stated that after the expiration of the one-month suspension, the defendant maliciously extended the suspension for another two weeks without any prior investigation or according her fair hearing as against universal law of natural justice. 

The Claimant on 4th April, 2016 responded to the letter of extension of suspension and the Defendant’s refusal to accept the Claimant’s resignation letter despite the breach of the terms of employment. On the 7th day of June, 2016 the Defendant accepted the Claimant’s resignation. The Claimant’s case is that she is entitled to the sum of N1,832,758.20 (One Million, Eight Hundred and Thirty-Two thousand, Seven Hundred and Fifty-Eight Naira, Twenty-Kobo Only) being educational grant, arrears of salaries, profit share and other entitlements totaling the sum of N235,554,358.50 (Two Hundred and Thirty-Five Million, Five Hundred and Fifty-Four Thousand, Three Hundred and Fifty-Eight Naira, Fifty Kobo). The Claimant also demanded the sum of N 229, 000, 000.00 (Two Hundred and Twenty-Nine Million Naira Only) as profit share of over N 1,000,000,000.00 (One Billion Naira only) from transactions initiated and executed by the Claimant from January 2012 till date of resignation in 2016. The Claimant seeks that the cost of her official car (a Honda CRV) be deducted from the outstanding amount due. After the letter of resignation, a meeting was held between the management of the Defendant and the Claimant on May 4th 2016, wherein the Defendant agreed to make available copies of tax remittance, pension remittances, original documents of the Car and spare keys for the Claimant to study and revert to the Defendant. Subsequently, a mail was sent on October 10, 2016 wherein the Defendant stated that pension arrears were added to the salary arrears and deducted from the Net Book Value of the official car of the Claimant. The Claimant regards this as a gross misconduct and breach of trust on the side of the Defendant.
 But Nnadabo Energy Limited through its witness told the court that the claimant was suspended from duty on a genuine allegation of breach of trust and the suspension was extended when the claimant continuously committed the same offence for which she was suspended.   

The oil Firm further told the court that the Claimant was not entitled to anything from it, other than as expressly detailed and enumerated in the table at page 4 of the Claimant’s letter through her solicitor dated June 26, 2018. Adding that the Claimant neither initiated nor executed any transaction that could yield any profit sharing of N229,000,000.00, and that it is not owing the Claimant the sum of N235, 554, 358.50 at all. 

Justice Orji, in her judgment delivered on July 4, 2023, after careful perusal of all exhibits tendered by the parties, and legally scrutinized all the submissions made by the parties, and citing plethoras of legal authorites, granted the above orders while declined other reliefs.

The judge held that: “……I have held that the claimant is entitled to the sum of the sum of N3, 810, 526.96, being the admitted arrears of Salary from 2012 to February 2016, less the net book value of the CRV. 

“Relief for interest at the rate of 22 percent per annum from July 5, 2018 till the date of judgment seeks for pre-judgment interest. The Claimant has not proved how she became entitled to pre-judgment interest, and at the rate claimed. The relief for pre-judgment interest fails. 

“Interest on the adjudged sum of N3, 810, 526.96 shall be at the rate of 20 percent per annum until the judgment debt if fully liquidated. I make no order as to cost. Judgment is entered accordingly.”