… court ordered Mr. Abdul-Hakeem Olasewere to pay Airtel Networks a sum of N4.9m outstanding balance from the Vehicle Purchase Loan
The National Industrial Court (NICN) sitting at Ibadan has ordered Airtel Network Nigeria Limited to pay a sum of N161 million to Mr. Abdul-Hakeem Olasewere for unlawful termination of its former employees.
The court presided over by Justice Dele Peters, awarded the judgment sum against Airtel Network Nigeria Limited, while delivering judgment in the suit filed by Olasewere of the V. P. Operations and Support, against the telecommunication firm.
In the Judgment delivered on April 29, Justice peters breakdown sum awarded as follow; the sum of N100 million for exemplary damages, N60 million for general damages and the wrongful termination while N1 million goes for cost of instituting the suit.
To arrive at the judgment, Justice Peters held that: “it is against the international best practice as well as international labour standard to lay off a performing staff without justifiable reasons and at the global level, termination of employment at will and without reason is no longer fashionable or acceptable.”
However, the court ordered Mr. Abdul-Hakeem Olasewere to pay Airtel Networks the sum of N4.9m outstanding balance from the Vehicle Purchase Loan, he subscribed to while in service of the firm.
The Claimant, Mr. Abdul-Hakeem Olasewere, who is also judgment creditor, the V. P, Operations and Support had averred that the alleged termination of his employment was wrongful that the Airtel’s actions have cast severe aspersions on his integrity, reputation, and professionalism and tainted him with guilt over undisclosed allegations.
Olasewere added that he did not receive any written query from the firm and was not arraigned before any Panel of Investigation, no reason was stated for terminating his employment and the letter of termination offered him his entitlement in lieu of notice, urged the court to grant the reliefs sought.
In urging the court to dismiss the suit, Airtel Networks averred that it is not under any contractual obligation to state the reason, cause, or the basis for the termination of the Claimant’s employment
Airtel Network Nigeria Limited Counsel told that Abdul-Hakeem was not investigated pursuant to any petition and that the termination of his employment was a voluntary action in accordance with the employment contract of the firm. Nevertheless, there were petitions against the Claimant, that Abdul-Hakeem’s salary in lieu of notice with terminal benefits paid, cannot successfully raise the issue of lack of fair hearing in his termination process. Therefore, urged the court to dismiss the case in its entirety and enter judgment in terms of the Counterclaim.
In opposition, the learned Counsel to the Abdul-Hakeem, urged Court to hold on the strength of evidence adduced that the termination of the Claimant’s employment is accentuated by malice, wrongful, unjustifiable, and therefore contrary to international best practices.
Delivering the Judgment on the suit Justice Peter held that: “after careful evaluation of the submissions of both parties, the position of the senior counsel that the master has the unhindered right to hire and to fire for good, for bad, or no reason at all has been consigned to the dustbin of history by both the Constitution and the case-law.”
Justice Peters further held that: “the Abdul-Hakeem was not just a performing but a reliable and dependable staff of the firm that in the absence of economic downturn calling for the defendant to reduce its workforce, the Defendant (and indeed any other employer for that matter) owes it a duty to provide justifiable reason for just suddenly throwing the Claimant into the job market in a festive period and the eve of Christmas.”
Justice Peters further held that the company’s failure to provide reason for terminating the employment of the Claimant makes it wrongful being in contravention of the globally accepted practice in such situation, resolved the issue in favour of the Claimant and against the Defendant.
The Court held that malice was the basis for the termination of the employment of the Claimant as no evidence before the court attest to the fact that the procedure set out in the company’s Disciplinary Policy was ever complied with respecting the Claimant.
“Justice Peters Ruled that in considering the quantum of general damages to award in this case, I further take adequate cognizance of the position of the Claimant in the Defendant, his contributions to the progress, development, and prosperity of the Defendant particularly as revealed by Exh. C3, Exh. C4 and perhaps more importantly by the testimonies of the (MD/CEO of the Defendant) as contained in Exh. C24.”
“Finally, the wrong against the Clamant in this case, among others, is the stigma which his unceremonious exit from the Defendant portends, he added.