CASE TITLE: ECO BANK (NIG.) LTD v. IDEMUDIA (2023) LPELR-61505(CA)
JUDGMENT DATE: 29TH NOVEMBER, 2023
PRACTICE AREA: LABOUR LAW
LEAD JUDGMENT: JAMES GAMBO ABUNDAGA, J.C.A.
SUMMARY OF JUDGMENT:
This appeal borders on the Wrongful Dismissal of Employee.
This is an appeal against the judgment of the National Industrial Court, sitting in Abuja in Suit No. NICN/ABJ/113/2014, delivered on May 25, 2017 by Hon. Justice M. N. Esowe.
The Respondent while in the employment of the Appellant was suspended and subsequently dismissed on the ground that he is a major shareholder of Halcelemates Nig. Ltd., a company that fraudulently posed as the bank’s approved recovery agent. A demand letter was written on the company’s letterhead to a facility customer by the name of Priscilla Udehz, and the company’s account at Diamond Bank subsequently received payment. The Respondent claimed innocence and denied a fair hearing in his suspension and subsequent dismissal. Feeling aggrieved, the Respondent approached the National Industrial Court for redress and sought, among others, a declaration that his dismissal by the Defendant vide the letter of dismissal dated February 4th, 2014 and signed by Nora Akinyemi is wrongful and unlawful, that the indefinite suspension without pay of the Claimant by the defendant from the 18th day of July, 2013 to 4th February, 2014, and subsequent dismissal, without first giving the Claimant fair hearing, is wrongful and against the rule of natural justice and fair hearing and damages.
The Appellant denied the Respondent’s claims. The Appellant’s defence is that the Respondent was dismissed after a committee set up to investigate him found him guilty of gross misconduct, which undermined the policies of the Appellant. The Appellant therefore urged the Court to dismiss the claims as spurious and gold-digging. Both sides called evidence and tendered Exhibits, and at the conclusion of the trial, the Court delivered its judgment, granting most of the reliefs sought by the Respondent.
Being dissatisfied with the decision of the trial Court, the appellant appealed to the Court of Appeal.
ISSUE(S) FOR DETERMINATION:
The Court determined the appeal on the following issues:
- Whether the trial Court was correct when it held that “from the evidence before this Honourable Court, this Court is satisfied that the panel set up by the Defendant found nothing linking the Claimant to Mrs. Priscilla Udeh on the loan facility she got from the bank, nor was it established at the panel that Mrs. Priscilla acted on misrepresentation by the Claimant and I so hold,” and therefore entered judgment in favour of the Respondent.
- Whether the application for amendment filed on June 22, 2016 was indeed rightly refused by the trial Court.
- Whether the trial Court was correct when it held that the suspension of the Respondent without pay without first giving him a fair hearing is wrongful and against the rule of natural justice.
- Whether the learned trial Court was justified in awarding damages in the sum of 5 Million Naira.”
In the final analysis, the Court dismissed the appeal.
• EVIDENCE – STANDARD OF PROOF – Standard of proof of allegations of fraud/forgery in civil proceedings
• PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE – SPECULATION – Whether Court can act on speculations
• LABOUR LAW – SUSPENSION FROM EMPLOYMENT – Whether a suspended employee is entitled to his wages/emoluments during the period of suspension
• EVIDENCE – AFFIDAVIT EVIDENCE – Effect of failure to file counter affidavit
• JUDGMENT AND ORDER – REASON FOR JUDGMENT – Whether an appellate Court is concerned with the correctness of the decision of the Court from which the appeal it is handling has emanated and not the reasons given
• LABOUR LAW – WRONGFUL DISMISSAL OF AN EMPLOYEE – Measure of damages for wrongful dismissal of an employee
• PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE – AMENDMENT OF COURT PROCESSES/PLEADINGS – Factors the Court considers in exercising the discretion on whether to grant an application for an amendment or not