By Isaac Tersoo Agber
The National Industrial Court of Nigeria has passed judgment in favour of 5 ex staff of the defunct Air Nigeria after 4 years of legal tussle over wrongful dismissal without payment of due salaries and gratuities.
Delivering judgment today January 21, 2016, the NICN gave a 30-day ultimatum to the management of defunct airline to pay its wrongfully sacked employees Four hundred and Seventy-Five million, Two hundred and Eighty thousand, Four hundred and Ninety-Two naira, Forty Eight kobo (N475, 280,492.48k).
The court has also ordered the company to pay another Three hundred and Nine thousand, Two hundred and Seventy US Dollars ($309, 270.00) to all as salaries from May to August 2012.
In the judgment, presiding Judge, Honourable Justice J. T Agbadu- Fishim, ordered ANDL to pay the employees one month salary in lieu of notice and calculate each employee’s contributory pension entitlement and pay same to their respective Pension Fund Administrator.
The 30 day ultimatum also comes with a caveat that failure to heed to it, will attract a 10% interest of payment, National Daily gathered.
Five former staff of the company, Livinus Olisakwe, Roland Ahmed, Odunokwe Christopher, Awonaga Israel Jaja Samian Dandison filed the motion in court for all the sacked employees of Air Nigeria since 5thSeptember 2012 seeking relief for their wrongful termination of appointment via a newspaper publication, describing it as illegal and not valid notice.
In the suit filed NICN/LA/ 481/ 2012, charges were enumerated that the defendant breached the employer/ employees agreement by deducting 7.5% from the claimants and their colleagues’ total emoluments and as agreed by the employees handbook is also supposed to make its own contribution of 7.5% totaling 15% to the pension scheme.
According to the claimants, that was not done as the defendants did not remit said funds and was trading with it depriving them the use of same.
They also claimed that the defendants deducted taxes from the claimants and their colleagues’ on the PAYE basis but established that there was no tax certificate showing payment further leading to the fact that the defendant merely deducted the taxes without remitting to the appropriate authorities.
Recall that after a series of complaints and threats to down tools over unpaid salaries and hazardous working conditions, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) suspended flight operations of Air Nigeria, owned by Barrister Jimoh Ibrahim with immediate effect.
The suspension arose from allegations that the airline was in dire financial distress unable to fulfil its obligations to employees, lessors and airline ground services in different countries around West Africa, Middle East and Europe. The airline was accused by a former staff of skipping critical maintenance of its fleet as the owner diverts funds meant for maintenance to other businesses.
The airline and its owner were later charged for tax fraud by Nigeria’s federal Inland Revenue service for tax evasion and fraud.
The Federal Inland Revenue Services (FIRS), also went on to quiz the then Managing Director of the airline, Mr Kinfe Kahssaye, for allegedly failing to pay company taxes amounting to N4.7 billion.