Illegal Dismissal: Court Slams $2m, N6m Fine On Foreign Firm

A foreign firm, Sea Trucks Limited, has been ordered by Awka, Anambra State, division of the National Industrial Court Of Nigeria (NICN), to pay the sum of $2 million USD, and N6 million to its former staff, Chief Karim Abdul, who was wrongfully and illegally sacked by the company.

Justice John Targema, who presided over the court made the order against he company while delivering judgment in a suit filed by Abdul against the firm.

The judge also declared the constructive dismissal of Chief Abdul from service of Sea Trucks Limited as wrongful.

During the trial of the matter, the claimant, Chief Karim Abdul told the court that he worked with the defendant, Sea Trucks Nigeria Limited, from February 1978 and retired in March 2015, after 37 years of service at the age of 61 years, and the refusal of the firm to pay him gratuity affected his resettlement into life after retirement, urged the court to grant the reliefs sought.

In defence, the defendant, Sea Trucks Limited, told the court the applicant, Chief Abdul did not retire but rather resigned from the employment and thereafter sought and obtained employment with another company, that the case is frivolous, speculative and discloses no reasonable cause of action.

The firm averred that Chief Karim’s resignation of appointment does not carry with it an entitlement to $11, 099, 186.00 USD, gratuity claim as against retirement, and the conditions of service did not provide for gratuity and urged the court to dismiss the case in its entirety.

In opposition, the learned counsel to Chief Abdul, A.K. Idigu Esq submitted that having worked as an employee in the employment of Sea Trucks Limited for over 36 years, his client is entitled to be paid gratuity being terminal benefit by the firm upon retirement.

The counsel alleged that the firm enticed his client who was an impressionable young man in 1978 to Nigeria and profited from his hard work without thinking of or being bothered to make provisions for his compensation of many years of service and transition to life after retirement when he committed all the best working years of his life in service to defendant’s employment is contrary to public policy and repugnant to natural justice, equity and good conscience.

Counsel further averred that the court will not fold its hands in haplessness and watch his client go into retirement at an advanced age in penury on the ground that his client did not negotiate for terminal benefit or gratuity when joining the firm over 44 years ago that such unconscionable act, akin to modern slavery, must be condemned in the overriding interests of public policy and the judiciary should side with the party at a disadvantage.

Justice Targema in his judgment after careful evaluation of the submissions of both parties, held that the defendant did not contradict Chief Abdul’s evidence where he was instructed to resign and declared such constructive dismissal as wrongful.