First Bank Plc Ordered To Pay Ex-Staff N24.1m Retirement Benefits

An Ibadan, Oyo State division of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) has ordered the First Bank Plc, to pay a total sum of N24, 141,070 million, to it’s retired staff, Abiola Emilola Lufadeju.

The sum according to Justice J. D. Peters, who presided over the court, is the being Abiola’ retirement benefits and cost of instituting the suit against First Bank Plc.

Justice Peter gave the order while given judgment in suit marked  NICN/IB/60/2019, filed by Abiola over refusal of First Bank Plc, to pay her all retirement benefits.

The claimant, Abiola Emilola Lufadeju, had approached the court through her lawyer, IfeOluwa Olamiju, with a statement of claims, and sought the following reliefs against First Bank Plc, “a declaration that she has voluntarily retired from the service of First Bank Plc on Friday, February 20, 2015, having taken the benefit of window of voluntary Early Retirement with incentives offered by the Defendant.

“A declaration that her purported Notice of Voluntary Retirement dated June 8, 2016, and submitted to the bank is null and void as she was by that time no more in the employment of the bank, having taken the benefit of window of Voluntary Early Retirement with incentives offered by the Defendant vide her letter electronically submitted on February 20, 2015 at 4.44pm.

“A declaration that the bank’s letter dated June 14, 2016 to the Claimant converting the latter’s notice of voluntary retirement to normal exit and without benefit is null and void having been based on a void request.”

In the alternative the claimant as for the following reliefs: “a declaration that conversion or treatment of the Claimant’s Notice of Voluntary Retirement dated June 8 2016 to “normal exit without incentive” i. e mere termination of employment by the Defendant vide its letter dated 14th June 2016 is wrongful, unfair, unnecessarily punitive, discriminatory and done both in bad faith and in flagrant disregard to labour ethics and extant terms of employment between the Claimant and the Defendant.

“An order mandating the First Bank Plc to pay all her emoluments and severance packages, commensurate to her status in the employment of the bank and in line with either her election to take benefit of Voluntary Early Retirement dated 8th June 2016 pursuant to the grant of relief (iv) above and as specified in the extant terms of the Defendant’s Employee Handbook 2007 or any extant one to wit.

“An order for the payment 100 percent benefit and entitlement to her in line with the 2015 Voluntary Early Retirement with Benefit scheme using total cost of employment of the sum N24, 307, 698 million, as base.”

Also in alternative, “an order for payment of 100 percent exit benefit and entitlement to the Claimant in line with the Bank’s Employee Handbook 2007.

An order for the refund of Annual Upfront Allowance in the sum of N1,728,533.53 only; Excess charge on status car in the sum of N3, 045,706.94 million; Payment of ‘Pay for Performance’ (PFP) for January to June 2016 on pro rata basis totaling the sum of N2, 431,829.50 million.”

“An award of general damages of N20 million, against the First Bank Plc, for the breach of contract, psychological trauma and economic hardship resulting from the failure of the bank to pay the her exit benefit. And award of 10 percent interest on judgment sum till date of payment.”

   

During the trial of the suit, the Claimant, stated that she had been in the employment of the bank since September 6, 1989, and by February 19, 2015, when the circular creating avenue for voluntary retirement was issued she had put in about 26 years of meritorious service having attained an age of fifty-two (52) years. Adding that having satisfied all the requirements, submitted her application within the submission window; and that she did not get any feedback from the bank, despite having noticed some of her other colleagues being given their entitlement.

She stated further that that she was forced to remain in the bank’s employment before she turned in her of resignation on June 8, 2016 and again requested that her exit benefits should be calculated in line with the 2015 voluntary early retirement with benefit scheme; that the Defendant however replied via their letter dated June 14, 2016, that her exit from the bank would be treated as a resignation and not a retirement and that she was not paid any retirement benefits.


In defending the suit, First Bank Plc through its lawyer, M. O. Oladejo, filed a 32-paragraph statement of defence along with the requisite defence processes and urged the court to discountenance all the reliefs sought.

First bank’s witness, Tejumade Kolajo, admitted that  the Claimant was its employee from September 6, 1989 until she voluntarily retired on July 11, 2016 vides her letter of Voluntary retirement dated 8th June 2016; that while the Claimant was in its employment, it issued out a circular on 19th February 2015 to all staff intimating them of a Voluntary Early Retirement with benefit scheme; that by this scheme, staff who have spent at least 5 years in the service of the Bank; or is 50 years of age and /or have attained 20 years length of service in the Defendant’s employment are eligible to apply; that as contained in the circular of February 19, 2015, all signed and scanned hand written applications were to be sent to Head, Human Capital Management mail box and that the window to submit the said application was 5pm of 20th February, 2015.

The bank’s witness averred that several applications were received from eligible applicants and those who met the conditions highlighted in the circular were voluntarily retired and paid the promised benefits; that the Claimant on her part also put in an Application dated 20th September, 2015, which fell outside the period prescribed in the circular, on February 20, 2015; and that the Claimant continued working with the bank and receiving her salary and other entitlements till June 8, 2016 when she tendered a formal letter to the Defendant of her intention to retire voluntarily from the employment of the Defendant effective from July 11, 2016; that it received and accepted the Claimant’s voluntary retirement and paid her all her entitlements and that upon her exit from the employment of the Defendant Bank, the Claimant then instituted this suit claiming the reliefs sought.

Justice Peter after considering all arguments of the parties and all exhibits tendered by them raised two issues, (1) Whether the Claimant is entitled to claim under the voluntary early retirement scheme of the Defendant of 2015.

(2) Whether the Claimant is entitled to any retirement benefit under the Defendant’s Staff Handbook having voluntarily retired from the Defendant on June 8, 2016.

The two issues were resolved in favour of the claimant.

The judge consequently made the following orders: “The defendant (First Bank Plc) is ordered and directed to pay to the claimant the sum of N 23, 891, 070 million, being her retirement benefits by virtue of Clause 8.12.1 of Exh. C13 – Staff Handbook.

“Pursuant to Order 47 Rule 7 of the Rules of this Court, the defendant shall pay a 20 percent interest per annum on the Judgment sum from today till final liquidation.

“The entitlement to status car is subject to Management of the Defendant’s approval as stated in paragraph (b) of Clause 8.12.1 of Exh. C13.  This Court will therefore not make an order for same to be conceded to the Claimant.

“The Defendant is ordered to pay the cost of this proceedings assessed at being her retirement benefits N250,000.00 to the Claimant.

“All the terms of this Judgment shall be complied with immediately.”