“Forcing Worker To Resign, Is Misuse Of Power” -Court Tells Bank Of Industry

The Lagos division of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN), has nullified and set aside the purported letter of termination of employment issued by Bank of Industry to it’s Assistant General Manager, Mr. Sonny Ekedayen, describing the Bank’s action as gross violation of Article 4 of the International Labour Organization Convention.

Consequently, Justice Rabiu Gwandu, who presided over the court has forthwith,  ordered immediate reinstatement of Mr. Sonny with payment of his salaries and allowances from November 2015 the date of the purported termination till date.

Justice Gwandu in judgment delivered on Wednesday, November 28, 2022, held that forcing an employee to resign is a gross misuse of power and position, a vagrant display of superiority and an infringement on Mr. Sonny’s rights as guaranteed under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999.

The Court restrained the Bank of Industry’s Managing Director from attempting to force Mr. Sonny to resign his employment with the Bank and must not be seen that he is victimized as a result of the Lawsuit, that any action to that effect will be treated as contempt of the Court’s Order and dealt with accordingly.

Facts of the suit is that, the claimant, Mr. Sonny submitted that without just cause or lawful authority to do so, the Bank Of Industry’s Managing Director ordered him to resign his employment or proceed on voluntary early retirement on the basis that he (the MD) could no longer work with him and his employment was terminated during the pendency of the suit.

But BOI and the Managing Director in their defence, raised a preliminary objection to the suit on the ground that “the Court lacks the jurisdiction to entertain the such”, as the subject matter falls under a contract of employment in the Lagos State of Nigeria (not alleged to have anything to do with the Federation or government of the Federation) and the right to determine Mr. Sonny’s contract may be exercised at any time whether by the giving of notice or not. 

They contended that a court of law cannot compel the BOI to keep Mr. Sonny in its employment and nothing before the Court to justify a finding that the MD was not duly authorized to exercise the powers or discharge the duties carried out in respect of the claimant dismissal on 20th November 2015.

Responding to the defendants’ preliminary objections, Sonny’s counsel, Mrs. Abimbola Akeredolu (SAN), averred that Bank Of Industry served her client the Termination Letter, at a time when proceedings in the suit were already pending, and the court had ordered the parties to maintain the status quo. She added that Bank Of Industry, acted in disobedience of the clear orders of the Court and cannot be allowed to benefit from their wrong.

Opposing Akeredolu’s submission, Bank Of Industry maintained that in line with the Court of Appeal’s decision that since there was no order of interim injunction granted by the Court, there could not have been any status quo order in force, urged the court to dismiss the case in its entirety.

Deciding the suit, Justice Gwandu in his judgment, dismissed the defendants’ objection for lacking substance and affirmed the unfettered jurisdiction of the Court to preside on any matter relating to employment to the exclusion of any Court in Nigeria.

Justice Gwandu also held that despite the lawsuit and the order of the Court maintaining the status quo, the agency issued Mr. Sonny a letter of termination, where even the Court of Appeal upheld the trial Courts order for parties to maintain the status quo, this means that at all material times, Mr. Sonny’s employment was never determined, even if same was determined.

The Court reiterated that the regime that an Employer can hire and fire at will with or without reasons is long gone, the National Industrial Court in applying international best practices has jettisoned the provision that the Employer has all the leeway to do as he pleases when it comes to determination of the Employees contract.

 “It is pertinent to ask on what authority the first defendant sought to compel or force the Claimant to resign, the Bank of Industry Manual-exhibit SE9 does not give him this prerogative, to make an Order of this nature is against the very dictates of human rights and natural justice.”

Source -: NICN