Lagos– The National Industrial Court, NIC, has held that an employer is not at liberty to dismiss an employee without justifiable reason and due process must be observed.
Justice Nelson Ogbuanya held that the standard remains the same, whether in statutory employment or master/servant employment governed by common law.
His Lordship made the pronouncement while quashing the summary dismissal of Mr. Valentine Nkomadu by Zenith Bank Plc.
Justice Ogbuanya while declaring the dismissal a wrong, noted that the claimant’s summary dismissal without reason or due process emanated from the oft-confused interchange of dismissal and termination.
He said though both concepts are legally recognised exit pathways for an employee, they differ markedly in their operations and implications.
“Termination is a contractual exit available to both employer and employee, and may go with or without reason, as it may not be for disciplinary purpose, but just for mere compliance with extant contract of service to bring the employment relationship to a lawful end.
“On the other hand, dismissal is solely a disciplinary measure available for only the employer with consequential denial of pecuniary entitlements of employee’s earned terminal benefits and image battering; casting doubt on future employability.”
“For the simple reason that dismissal has the adverse effect of taking away the employee’s earned terminal benefits, the employer is not at liberty to dismiss an employee without justifiable reason and observance of due process and fair hearing.”
“Accordingly, an employer who decides to dismiss the employee is not only obliged to provide reason(s) for the dismissal but also justify the reason(s) if challenged.
“Thus, the often adopted veiled reason of ‘services no longer required’ or muted reason is not applicable to dismissal but limited to only termination, subject to service of appropriate notice period or salary in lieu of notice. I so hold”.
The claimant, Nkomadu was the erstwhile pioneer Branch Head of the bank’s Moloney branch in Lagos..
The defendant, in the suit numbered NICN/206/2015 – Valantine Nkomadu vs Zenith Bank Plc, alleged that the claimant breached the bank’s credit policy which culminated in his indefinite suspension for 10 months without pay, and subsequent dismissal.
The bank’s case was that the claimant violated its credit policy when he made some recommendations to the management for loan approvals and disbursement and some violations on loans approved based on the claimant’s recommendation.