A landmark ruling by the National Industrial Court in Port-Harcourt, Rivers State, has mandated UBA Pensions Custodian Limited to compensate Mr. Celestine Igwe Chibuzor, a Senior Custody Trainee, with a sum of N7,453,991.05 million. The court deemed the payment necessary to rectify the unlawful dismissal of Chibuzor, encompassing withheld salary for July and shortfalls in remuneration from August to November 2020, along with general damages.

Justice P. I. Hamman, presiding over the case, unequivocally labeled UBA Pensions Custodian Limited’s actions as wrongful and unlawful. The verdict stipulated that compliance with the judgment’s terms must be achieved within 30 days of its issuance, subject to a 10% annual interest penalty if delayed.

Chibuzor, represented by counsel V. N. Ayogu in suit number NICN/PHC/22/2021, had sought the court’s intervention, asserting that his suspension and subsequent termination lacked due process. He also contended that the termination, based on an unfounded offense, was unjust, unwarranted, and carried damaging implications for his future employment prospects.

It would be recalled that the claimant, Celestine, through his counsel, V. N. Ayogu, in a suit numbered NICN/PHC/22/2021, had asked the court for the following: “A declaration that the suspension of the claimant by the defendant was done without the due process of law and therefore liable to be set aside.

“A declaration that the termination of the employment of the claimant by the defendant for an offence the claimant knows absolutely nothing about is unlawful, wrongful, unjustifiable, unwarranted and carries with it a stigma that has and/or is capable of negatively affecting the employment chances of the claimant.

During the proceedings, Chibuzor detailed his employment journey, from joining UBA Pensions Custodian Limited as a Custody Trainee in 2012 to advancing to Senior Custody Trainee before being abruptly dismissed on December 9, 2020. He accused the company of failing to provide proper notice.

As a result, he prayed the court to grant all the reliefs sought against the defendant.

But UBA Pensions Custodian Limited through its lawyer, O. Wali (SAN), urged the court to dismiss the claimant’s suit for want of proof.

Justice Hamman’s ruling upheld Chibuzor’s claims, ordering UBA Pensions Custodian Limited to pay the withheld salary for July, the shortfalls in remuneration for August to November 2020, and substantial general damages totaling N7.45 million. The court further underscored the urgency of compliance within 30 days, or a 10% annual interest rate would be imposed until the full payment is completed.

In handing down his judgment, Justice Hamman held that “In the final result, the claimant’s case succeeds in part. The lone issue is resolved in favour of the claimant, and the court hereby declares and orders as follows: “It is hereby declared that the termination of the claimant’s employment is wrongful.

“The defendant is hereby ordered to pay the claimant the sum of N954,026.65 as the balance of his withheld salary for July and the shortfalls in the payments for August to November 2020.

“The defendant is hereby ordered to pay the claimant the sum of N6, 499,964.4 calculated at the rate of N270,831.85 as salary per month in exhibit CW1Q 24 months which is equivalent of two years’ salary as general damages for the wrongful termination of the claimant’s employment.

“The terms of this judgment shall be complied with within 30 days from today, failing which it shall attract interest at 10 per cent per annum until it is completely liquidated.

“Judgment is entered accordingly. No order as to cost”.

While the judgment refrained from assessing costs, its implications reverberate as a resolute stance against unlawful employment practices and a reminder of the sanctity of due process within the Nigerian workforce.

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