Court orders Senior Advocate of Nigeria to pay his ex-staff N1,746,942.
Written By Dedeigbo Ayodeji Samson
Posted By Town Crier News Nigeria
Published By Fitness Network Communications
A Lagos division of National Industrial court has ordered a Senior Advocate of Nigeria Aderibigbe Adedeji trading under the name and style of Adedeji Owotomo & Associate to pay his former employee Pius Ohimai Ovbiose a total sum of N1,746,942.
The presiding Judge Professor Elizabeth A.Oji made the order when judgement was entered in favour of Pius Ohimai Ovbiose and against Aderibigbe Adedeji in a judgement, delivered in a case filed before the court by the claimant,Pius Ohimai Ovbiose.
The case of the claimant:
Mr.Pius Ohimai Ovbiose was employed by Mr Aderibigbe Adedeji SAN trading under the name and style Adedeji Owotomo & Associate vide a letter of employment dated 11th February, 2016, as a counsel in his firm. In line with the letter of employment, the Claimant is entitled to statutory contributory pension, thirteenth month salary being one month’s gross salary without deductions, and bonuses amongst other entitlements and the following benefits:
Transport allowance – 10% of salary
13th month – Gross monthly salary
Bonus – payable as determined by the partner
The Claimant’s gross monthly salaries in the years 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 were
N220,000.00K; N251,000.00K; N251,000.00K; and N317,000.00K respectively which amount to the sum of one million and thirty Nine thousand Naira (N1, 039,000.00K) as 13 month salary, which the Defendant failed or neglected to pay.
The Claimant served on the Defendant a resignation notice on 18 August, 2020 and remained at work in the Defendant until Tuesday, 29 September, 2020. The Defendant failed or neglected to pay the Claimant’s salary for the month of September 2020. Prior to the Claimant’s resignation, the Claimant deducted pension sums for the months of January to August 2020 from source but refused to remit same to the pension Managers and upon several demand ,the claimant received notification from Crusader Sterling Pensions Ltd(the Pension Managers) that the defendant only remitted the contributory pension for January to June. 2020, into the Claimant’s RSA without statutory accrued interest.
The claimant states that he is entitled to 2% interest on his contributory pension for January to June 2020 and for July to September 2020 which was not remitted by the defendant.The Claimant conceded through a letter dated 28 September,2020 that the sum of one Hundred Thousand only representing one-quarter of Four Hundred Thousand be set off from claimant’s arrears of Thirteen month salaries (that is one million Thirty Nine Thousand.)
Case of the defendant:
It is the case of the Defendant that the Claimant was paid his salaries, accommodation allowances and the 13th month Salaries for years 2016. 2017, 2018 and 2019 along with December salaries during the period, into the Claimant’s Guaranty Trust Bank Account (0215113756). The thirteenth month was only paid in December and bonus only paid as and when determined or declared by the Defendant’s firm.
The Defendant states that the Claimant never complained during his employment with the Defendant. That on the 18th of December. 2017, the Defendant advanced the sum of N1.500,000 to the Claimant to buy an official car (but not a private car) for case of transportation to the office and for official assignments, under the firm’s staff support policy which was not part of the Claimant terms of employment. After the Claimant’s resignation, the Defendant demanded for a refund of 50% of the N1,500,000 advanced to the Claimant to buy official car in December 2017 but the Claimant failed to return same. The sum of N500,000 was allocated to the Claimant for renewal of the Claimant’s rent for the period of May 2020 to April 2021 and upon the Claimant’s resignation, the Claimant failed to refund the portion of the amount of rent covering the period from October 2020 to April 2021. The Defendant states that he is entitled to the sum of N291,666.667 being the amount representing the rent for seven months,
It is the case of the Defendant that the following travel expenses was disbursed into the Claimant’s account and the Claimant did not account for them:
On the 6th of March 2020- the sum of N100,000
On the13thofJuly2020-the sum of N200,000
On the 30th of August 2020 – the sum of N100,000
The following payments were magnanimously made by the Defendant’s firm to the Claimant as bonus payments:
On the 12th of March, 2020. the sum of N50,000 was paid to the Claimant.
On 28th of July 2020 -the sum of N250,000 was paid (during COVID19 pandemic period when no work was done by the Claimant for about four months) to the Claimant as Bonus.
On the 6th of August 2020, the sum of N150,000 was paid to the
On the 4th of September 2020. the sum of N78.000 was paid
The Defendant’s firm was always generous to the claimant every time the claimant needed the Defendant’s firm’s assistance, to the extent that the Defendant expended over$7.500, ensure that the Claimant attended the International Bar Association Conference 2018 in Rome It is further the Case of the Defendant that he is entitled to the sum of N5,000,000,00 only) cost of prosecuting this case and that a deposit in the sum of 500 000 000 five Hundred thousand Naira) has been paid into the Solicitor’s account.
The claimant reply to the statement of defence:
The claimant replied that he has always demanded for his thirteen month salaries from the Defendant. That the Defendant does not operate a staff support policy.
The Claimant states that the Defendant did not give him any money to buy a car in 2018 for the purpose of his employment: rather that. sometime in November 2016 to December 2017. it emerged that urgent steps needed to be taken to vacate or set aside various restriction orders obtained by EFCC and ICPC against the Defendant’s clients’ bank accounts, the Claimant single-handedly prepared all court processes and/or applications filed at different courts to set aside the restriction orders.
The Defendant was well impressed with the hard work of the Claimant which led to favourable results. When the Defendant was paid NGN65,000,000.00K and USD250,000 on or about 15 December, 2017 by some of the clients, the Defendant paid the sum of NGN1,500.000.00K into the Claimant’s account on 18 December, 2017. Upon the Claimant inquiring from the Defendant the purpose for the money,
The Defendant confirmed in unequivocal terms that the money was an out-and-out gift, with no condition attached, from the Defendant to the Claimant in appreciation of the Claimant’s yeoman’s job in the cases. The Claimant bought a Toyota Corolla 2005 model for the sum of NGN1,750,000.00K on 13 January. 2018 for his personal use, and single handedly maintains the Car without the interference of the Defendant.
When the Claimant verbally complained about the Defendant’s continued breach of the contract of employment by not paying the Claimant’s thirteenth month salary for the years 2016 and 2017 and none remittance of contributory pension for March to December, 2017. the Defendant sent the Claimant an Internal Memo dated 29 January, 2018 wherein he [the Defendant] purported to have re-denominated the same NGN1,500,000.00K [an out-and-out gift] on 18 December, 2017, as follows:
N200,000 towards the Claimant’s approved entitlement as in paragraph 2 of the memo
N400,000 towards the Claimant’s accommodation allowance for 2018 N400,000 as gift/bonus
N500,000 as car loan deductible from the Claimant’s salary in ten monthly installments beginning from March 2018.
In the Internal Memo dated 29 January, 2018, the Defendant also acknowledged the Claimant’s earlier complaint in January 2017, and admitted the Claimant’s entitlement to thirteenth month salary for the years 2016 and 2017 which has not been paid but purported that he [the Defendant] discontinued payment of thirteenth month salary to employees in 2015.
The Claimant states that he was not in the Defendant’s employment in 2015. The Claimant’s terms of engagement were discussed, agreed to by both parties and reduced into writing by the Defendant in February, 2016 and signed by both parties. When the Defendant realized that his [the Defendant’s double standing and volta face in re-designating the gift of N1,500,000 would lead to the claimant’s resignation at the time, the defendant later called the claimant to his office on 7February 2018, apologize to the claimant.reaffirmed his earlier representation that the sum N1,5000,000 remitted into the claimant’s account on the 18December,2017 was an out- and-out gift and promised that going forward he (defendant) would adhere strictly to the terms of engagement.
The claimant notes that no deduction on account of loan repayment was made from his salary in March to October 2018 or at any other time during his employment.The defendant also paid the claimant’s accommodation allowance for the year,2018, and remitted the claimant’s contributory pension for March to December,2017 deduction into the designated account
The claimant states that he verbally protested non-payment of his thirteenth month salary for years2016,2017,2018, and 2019 at the defendant’s office in January 2019 and January 2020 respectfully and urged the defendant to pay up. That the insinuation that the money was given to him to purchase a car under the defendant’s deliberate staff policy to ease the claimant’s transportation to court and office only emerged for the first time at the paragraph 3 of the defendant’s letter of September 2020,36 days after the claimant’s resignation notice was served on the defendant and we’ll over 2 years and nine months after the money was given.
The Claimant further replied that in compliance with the terms of his engagement. the Defendant remitted NGN400, 000 into his bank account as accommodation allowance for the year 2020, and NGN100, 000 as bonus, on Monday 15 June 2020. That since he worked for the Defendant from January through September 2020, the Defendant is only entitled to refund of the sum of money for the fourth quarter of that year.
In specific response to paragraphs 18 and 19 of the Statement of Defence and Counter Claim, the Claimant replied that at no time did he not render accounts or retire any difference of fund received from the Defendant during his employment, and proceeded to give details of the expenditure of the funds. The Claimant states that all details of expenditures in relation to funds disbursed by the Defendant to the Claimant as travel and other expenses during the Claimant’s employment were typed printed and delivered to the Defendant; and that every penny paid to him during the employment was well earned and more than deserved.
In her judgement,the presiding Judge, Professor Elizabeth A. Oji said
“For the avoidance of doubt. the Claimant’s action succeeds in its entirety; except for the relief for pre- judgment interest. Relief two of the counterclaim succeeds only in part, to the extent of the sum of N100,000 which is already set off by the Claimant’s first relief.
The Defendant is ordered to immediately pay to the Claimant the sum of N939,000.00 being the outstanding arrears of the Claimant’s thirteenth month salaries for the years 2016, 2017. 2018 and 2019.
The Defendant is ordered to immediately pay to the Claimant the sum of N307,942.00 being the Claimant’s unpaid salary for the month of September 2020.
If after 30 days from this date of judgment, this judgment is not complied with. interest shall begin to run on the judgment sum and cost, at the rate of 15% per annum until the entire judgment sum is fully liquidated.
Evidence shows that the Defendant has remitted the Claimant’s statutory pension contributions for the months of July, August and September 2020. The Defendant is ordered to immediately compute the accrued monthly penalty, now debt owed by the Defendant to the Claimant, and remit same to the Claimant’s retirement savings account in the manner calculated and set out at paragraph 28 of this judgment.
Cost of this action is set at N500,000 only in favour of the Claimant.
Judgement is entered accordingly.
Representation :Fredrick Adefarati for the claimant
Mahmood Adesina SAN, with Maryam Abdulateef for the Defendant.