Court Orders Primewaterview Holdings To Pay Ex-GMD/CEO N40.5m Gratuity

Justice M. N. Esowe, of Lagos division of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) has ordered Primewaterview Holdings Limited and it’s subsidiaries, to pay the sum of N40. 5 million, to its former Group Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Mrs. Morola Olabisi Babalola, whose appointment was unlawfully terminated.

Justice Esowe directed the company to pay the above-mentioned sum while delivering judgment in the suit marked
NICN/LA/647/2018, filed by the former GMD/CEO against the Primewaterview Limited; PWV Management Services Limited and Primewaterview Holdings Limited.
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Morola through her lawyer, Amaka Umunna Igwilo, had approached the court after she claimed that she was illegal sent out of the firm, and asked the following reliefs: “a declaration that the termination of her employment as the Group Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of the third defendant by the third defendant, is in breach of the defendants’ condition of service and extant laws relating to the employment of a director of a company and accordingly is ultra vires, illegal, null and void.

“A declaration that her employment/appointment as the Group Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of the third defendant still subsist and remains valid until same is validly terminated by the defendants.

“A declaration by the Honourable Court that having served for over 10 years in the employment of the Defendant is entitled to gratuity in accordance with the defendants’ condition of service handbook.

“The sum of N94,750 million, due to her being 10 years gratuity in accordance with (the) 3rd Defendant Staff Handbook.

“Damages for unlawful termination off the Claimant’s appointment in the sum of N100 million. 

“Inclusive of the foregoing, the Plaintiff claims against the 2nd Defendant the sum of N63,716,221.75 million, being her emolument as Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer for the period of January 2014 to December 21, 2015.

“Claim of the sum of N63,166,666.67 million, against the third defendant, being outstanding emolument due to the her for the services rendered to the third defendant for the period of December 21, 2015 to July 25, 2016 which the third defendant is yet to pay her.

“The sum of N7,895,833.33 million, being her salary for a month as Group Managing Director/CEO on a monthly basis effective from August 1, until judgment is given. And the sum of N50 million, being general damages arising from the publication of the third defendant dated March 29, 2016 concerning her which the third defendant knew to be untrue and intended to malign and defame her without any jurisdiction whatsoever. And Interest on the sums in claims at the rate of 21 percent per annum or at such other rate of interest as the Court may adjudged to be fair and just.

During the trial of the suit which commenced on May 23, 2022, the former GMD/CEO testified as CW1 and adopted her witness statement on oath filed on December 16, 2019, through her 18 documents were tendered and admitted in evidence and marked as Exhibits C1 – C18 respectively. 

Testifying before the court, the claimant told the court that she was employed by the first defendant, as a Sales Manager vide an employment letter dated October 23, 2006. She was to be paid the sum of N1 million as commission for every unit of property successfully marketed by her. Adding that due to her outstanding performance, she was elevated to the position of Assistant General Manager of the first defendant in 2007 and subsequently to the position of Deputy General Manager in 2009 during which year her performance also earned her the CEO award for the year. 

She told the court that the same year 2009, she was allotted shares of the first defendant to the value of N792,000.00 which she issued a Skye Bank Plc cheque dated July 03, 2009 for although she was never issued with a share certificate by the 1st Defendant.

She also told the court that the first defendant had some financial problems which led to the incorporation of the second and third defendants, and she was vide a letter dated January 02, 2014 appointed as the Managing Director of the second defendant with a monthly salary of N3,750 million, and an annual income of N45,000 million. But owing to the defendants financial issues, she made several financial sacrifices like deferring her salary. 

She also told the court that she was later appointed in August 2015 as Acting Group Managing Director of the first to third defendants which appointment was ratified by the Board of Directors on December 1, 2015 with 15 percent shareholding in the defendants. And that as Group Managing Director her monthly salary package was N7, 895,833.33 million.

She further told the court that as third defendant’s GMD/CEO, she channeled a new direction for the company that positioned it in good stead. One of the projects she secured for the defendants was valued at N8 billion and upon payment of the first installment on July 25, 2016, the defendant’s chairman, one Mr Adetunji Ogunwusi told her to resign from her position and when she declined he proceeded to order that she be locked out of her office. And that on July 29, 2016, she was informed that the Defendants’ Group Chairman, had proceeded to post on the third defendant’s website a notice of change of General Managing Director/CEO.
 Upon conclusion of claimant’s evidence, the matter was thereafter adjourned to June 22, 2022 for cross-examination, but on the said date, the defendants were not represented, also they did not file any process. Consequently, they were foreclosed. 

Following the defendants to defend the suit, Justice Esowe, after going through all the processes presented by the claimant, in his judgment held that: “it is declared that the claimant having served for about 10 years in the employment of the defendant is entitled to gratuity in accordance with the Defendants’ condition of service handbook.

“The first-third defendants are ordered to pay to the claimant the sum of N40, 500, million, as gratuity/end of service benefit for her continuous service to the Defendants for almost ten (10) years.

“Judgment is entered accordingly. I make no order as to cost.”