The Presiding Judge, Ibadan Judicial Division of the National Industrial Court, Hon. Justice Dele Peters has declared the termination of the employment of V. P, Operations and Support, Mr. Abdul-Hakeem Olasewere by the Airtel Networks Limited as wrongful and without any justifiable basis; awarded the sum of One Hundred Million Naira (N100,000,000.00) as exemplary damages, Sixty Million Naira (N60,000,000.00) as general damages for the wrongful termination and One Million Naira (N1,000,000.00) as cost of action.
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 to Airtel Networks the sum of N4.9m outstanding balance due to the Vehicle Purchase Loan he subscribed to while in the service of the firm.
From facts, the Claimant- Mr. Abdul-Hakeem Olasewere 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.
He 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 defense, the Defendant- 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.
Counsel submitted 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 even though 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, 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 the Court to hold that 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 after careful evaluation of the submissions of both parties, the presiding Judge, Justice Dele Peters held that 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 expressed 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 Dele 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.
“The wrong against the Clamant in this case, among others, is the stigma which his unceremonious exit from the Defendant portends.
“Finally 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.” Justice Peters ruled.
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