LAGOS, Nigeria – In an epoch-making ruling, the National Industrial Court, Lagos division, has ordered Union Bank of Nigeria Plc to pay Asenime Claire Ojuzo, a retired senior manager of the bank, the sum of N20.2 million ($50,450 USD) in gratuity shortfall.
The judgement was delivered by Justice Maureen Esowe on suit number NICN/LA/534/2017, filed by Mrs Ojuzo against the bank.
The court declared that the judgement sum constituted the shortfall of gratuity Union Bank ought to have paid Mrs Ojuzo upon her retirement.
“I’m relieved that justice has been served,” said Ojuzo after the ruling. “No bank employee should go through what I’ve endured.”
In the lead-up to the verdict, Ojuzo argued through her lawyer, Chief Paul Omoijiade, that her retirement from the bank was wrongfully imposed. She had not applied for withdrawal from service. Instead, she asserted that the bank’s action effectively amounted to redundancy, entitling her to additional benefits.
In defense, Union Bank’s representative, Mr. Francis Idiaghe, insisted that under the employment contract, either party can determine the contract by giving a month’s notice. He maintained that the bank was within its rights to determine the contract via a letter of withdrawal of service.
Following careful examination of evidence and submissions from both sides, Justice Esowe concluded, “The reliefs sought by the claimant touch on unlawful termination of employment and the monetary benefits the Claimant is entitled to… From all that have been said above, the case of the Claimant succeeds as follows: claim 1 fails; claim 2 fails; claim 3 fails, claim 4 succeeds; claim 5 succeeds in part…”
Ultimately, the court ruled in favour of Ojuzo on several counts, particularly declaring that the deduction of N2.1 million for a status car from her gratuity was wrong. It ordered the bank to pay Ojuzo the full sum deducted as well as the N18.1 million gratuity shortfall. The court also set an interest rate of 2.5% on the judgement sum from the date of judgement until full payment.
Union Bank has yet to comment on whether it intends to appeal the judgment.
The case, regarded as a significant test of Nigerian employment law, could pave the way for similar suits by other retired or retrenched bank employees who believe their gratuities were shortchanged.
“This landmark judgement serves as a deterrent to other institutions that may have taken undue advantage of their employees,” commented Chief Omoijiade. “It is indeed a victory for labour rights in Nigeria.”