SunTrust Bank Ordered To Pay Unjustly Sacked Manager N12.5m

The National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) Uyo, Akwa-ibom State division, has ordered Suntrust Bank Nigeria Limited to pay a total sum of N12. 5 million, to one of its managers, Nsikak Ime Tom, whose appointment was wrongful illegally and unlawfully terminated by the bank.

Justice M. A. Namtari, who presided over the bank, also held that the termination of Nsikak’s employment, as contained in the SunTrust bank’s letter dated May 14, 2021, is illegal, unlawful and wrongful, and therefore null and void.

Justice Namtari made the above orders on November 28, 2022, in a judgment delivered in a suit numbered NICN/UY/50/2021, filed by Nsikak Ime Tom, against the SunTrust bank limited.

Nsiaka, a former manager of the Uyo branch of the bank, in his suit filed by his lawyer, Godwin O. Effiong, had asked the court for the following reliefs: “a declaration that the employment of the claimant with the defendant is still subsisting same having not been lawfully terminated in accordance with the terms of his employment.

“A declaration that the purported Termination of Employment of the Claimant as contained in the Defendant’s letter of 14th May, 2021 is illegal, ultra vires the powers of the Defendant and therefore null and void as same did not conform with the Defendant’s Employee Handbook, 2019.

“A declaration that the Claimant is entitled to monthly salaries from May, 2021 till judgment and subsequently thereafter till the employment is properly determined by the parties.”

 “An order reinstating the Claimant to his position of Branch Manager in the employ of the Defendant with concomitant privileges and remunerations.

 “An order directing the SunTrust bank to pay him the following entitlements totaling N15, 150, 104. 19 million and N100 million, for wrongful termination and threat to secured livelihood.

The Claimant’s entitlement is listed as; Basic Salary for June, July and August; Leave Allowance; housing allowance allowance; transport allowance; meal allowance; utility allowance; entertainment allowance; educational allowance; dressing allowance hazard allowance and severance allowance.  

The claimant while also asked for an order of perpetual injunction restraining the SunTrust bank, from further meddling with his employment except as authorized by law.

 During the trial of the matter, Nsikak testified as CW and tendered nine exhibits marked admitted as exhibits CW1-CW9.

To prove his case against the bank, the claimant said he was offered employment by the letter dated August 18, 2018, as a Business Development Manager, Deputy Manager Grade Level with the title of Branch Manager at the Defendant’s Office, Uyo with a target to generate an annual revenue of N125 million and to mobilize N1 Billion in six (6) months. 

He told the court that on resumption of duty, he was diligent, dutiful and performed his duties without let or hindrance as evidenced by the confirmation of his appointment on June 10, 2019 and his superlative performance. Adding that he was able to attract over 4,223 active accounts with more than N1.1 billion, deposit as against 1,000 accounts with a paltry N34 million, deposit at the date of his resumption of duty with the bank relying on it’s Annual Report for 2019/2020 Financial Year. And that in the over N1.1 billion deposits, the Claimant’s personal involvement accounted for over 70% as at March, 2021.

He also told the court that the terms of his employment as contained in his offer Letter of August 18, 2018 and Employee Handbook, 2019 (Exhibit CW9). And by Exhibit CW9, the Defendant carried out twice yearly performance assessment of its staff and at the end of 2020 Performance Assessment the Defendant ranked/rated the Claimant 5(five) with a score of 88% being excellent. In spite of this and knowing that the Claimant was due for promotion in August, 2021, the bank surprisingly and without any justification changed the assessment procedure through Internal Memo titled: Performance Probation (Exhibit CW3) and placed him on a performance watch list for three months beginning from April 1, 2021. 

He stated that while he put in extra efforts to meet the deadline of three months, the bank without waiting for the three months period to elapse, advised him by email dated May 11, 2021, to Resign. And that in response, he complaint of unfair treatment vide Exhibit CW8 only for the bank to issue a letter dated May 14, 2021, terminating his employment without notice or payment of salary in lieu of Notice contrary to the Defendant’s Employee Handbook. 

He stated that It is under this state of affairs that he decided to institute the action against the bank.

However, SunTrust bank through its counsel, Ovye Affi, raised two issues for determination. The issues raised are: “Whether Exhibits CW5, CW6, CW7, CW8 and CW9 which were admitted under protest are admissible?

To justify the claimant’s termination of employment, SunTrust bank limited admitted that the claimant used to be its employee but that the employment relationship came to an end with the lawful termination of the employment by the payment of one month’s salary in lieu of notice, as well as all other accrued entitlements. 

SunTrust bank told the court that by the offer of employment, it reserves the right to terminate the employment of the Claimant at any time, provided that the it pays one month’s salary in lieu of one month’s notice. 

Justice Namtari, after legally weighed all arguments canvassed by the parties’ counsel, and perused all the documents tendered and admitted as exhibits held that; “a declaration that the Termination of Employment of the Claimant as contained in the Defendant’s letter of 14th May, 2021 is illegal, wrongful and therefore null and void.

“An order for the Defendant (SunTrust Bank) to pay the Claimant the sum of N12.5 Million being total Annual Monetized Salary of the Claimant per annum as damages.

“Payment to be effected within 30 days from today.”

Culled From NICN