Alleged wrongful dismissal: Court dismisses suit against Polaris bank, NDIC

Man docked for defrauding woman seeking election
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The National Industrial Court, Abuja, has dismissed a suit against Polaris Bank Plc by an ex-staff, Regina Alapiki, over her inability to prove a case of wrongful termination of her employment

Others joined as co-defendants in the suit were the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) and the defunct Skyebank Plc.

Justice Oyejoju Oyewumi, who delivered the judgment via virtual proceeding started by addressing issues raised by defence in their Preliminary Objection (PO)

The defence counsel, Peace Ogbonna and Nasiru Dangiri had averred in their PO that the suit was status barred as the claimant instituted the suit 11 months after the termination of her employment.

They therefore argued that the Status of Limitation had caught up with the suit, which according to them, that the claimant failed to put into cognizance the provision of Section 2 ( A) of Public Officers Protection Act which stipulated that redress of any grievance against any public officer should be instituted within three months of the accrual of the action.

The defence also in their PO submitted that there was no cause of action as to warrant the claimant instituting the suit.

Accompanying the PO also was the Written Address that prayed the court to determine the suit by two issues.

The first issue was whether the suit was competent and the second issue was whether the claimant through legal evidence established her case to entitle her to the reliefs sought.

The judge however discountenanced the argument of the defence that the suit was not competent.

The defendants had averred that the claimant whose employment was terminated on March 20, 2018, did not institute the suit until Feb. 13, 2019.

They had therefore argued that the first defendant ( Polaris bank), being a public officer, cannot be sued after the expiration of the stipulated three months.

Oyewumi ruled that the first defendant was not a public officer and the Public Officers Protection Act was not applicable to it.

She said ” I equally discountenanced and find no merit in the Preliminary Objection and it is therefore dismissed for lacking in merit”.

The judge held that the case must proceed on the strength of the claimant’s case and not on the weakness of the defendant’s, and that although the claimant was allowed to rely on some aspect of the defence that supported her case.

The court said that the claimant claimed that the Chairman of the Staff Disciplinary Committee that indicted and recommended her dismissal, was the same person that instigated the misconduct allegation against her in the first place.

The court in addition said that the choice of Chairman of the committee therefore breached the principle of natural justice and her fundamental human rights to fair hearing.

The court had equally said that the claimant in her claim said she was not paid her one month salary in lieu of termination of her employment.

The court in its ruling however said that there was no credible evidence before the court to show that the claimant opposed the constitution of the disciplinary committee, nor was there evidence to show how the Chairman of the committee breached her right to fair hearing.

The judge in addition said “any fact not backed with evidence could not be used, the submission is unfounded and unproven and it is hereby discountenanced, I so find and hold”

Oyewumi further said that claimants’ claim that she was the only punished for the offence was contrary to the evidence before the court as one other staff member was placed on suspension for three months without pay.

She equally said that the claimant having not denied the facts as submitted by defendants in their Statement of Defence regarding the payment of one month salary cannot say she was dismissed as one dismissed from employment would not be paid salary in lieu.

The judge also ruled that a termination cannot be wrongful except it was done in breach of contract as contained in the employment manual.

She said that the claimant did not place before the court the terms and conditions of her service that was breached and her failure to do so did not enable the court to determine how the terms were breached.

She concluded that the claimant could not allege wrongful termination having accepted a one month salary. She therefore said, ” You cannot put nothing and expect something, i find and hold that the termination was not wrongful, the main claim having failed, the other reliefs also failed”

The Judge therefore granted none of the reliefs sought, and dismissed the suit in its entirety.

From the Statement of Facts, the claimant, Alapiki was employed by the defunct Reliance Bank before its merger with Skyebank which later became Polaris Bank Plc.

She rose to the position of a Business Development Manager and got involved along with other staff in a scheme that was against the bank’s policy.

She was therefore sanctioned after appearing before a Staff Disciplinary Committee that indicted and recommended termination of her employment on ground of misconduct on March 20,2018.

Alapiki had therefore approached the court to seek redress by praying for some court declarations and orders.

Amongst which were for payment of N100 million as damages, payment of her full salary, allowances and benefit from the date of the termination till the date of judgment

She also sought for 10 percent per annum on judgment sum till date of final liquidation