Ex-Staff Wins Suit Against Notore Chemical, to Get N20.5m

February 24, 2020

By Modupe Gbadeyanka

The management of Notore Chemical Industries Plc has been directed to pay the sum of N20.5 million to one of its former employees, Mr Ayodele Balogun, as gratuity claim.

This directive was given by Justice Nelson Ogbuanya of the National Industrial Court sitting in Lagos earlier this month. The amount is the outstanding balance of Mr Balogun’s gratuity payment due to him since 2013.

The company, owned by Nigerian businessman, Mr Onajite Okoloko, was also asked by the court to the sum of N1 million as the cost of action within one month, failing which it attracts 10 percent interest rate per annum until fully liquidated.

According to Justice Ogbuanya, Notore Chemical action credited to external advice which prompted the defence of ‘mistaken payment’ was not justified, and cannot override the obligation to pay outstanding balance due to the claimant.

From facts, the claimant was employed on October 1, 2008 as Chief Marketing Officer and by a letter dated June 14, 2013, sent via e-mail on Wednesday, June 19, 2013, tendered resignation, and indicated that it would take effect on October 1, 2013.

He further said as a result of his service to the firm spanning 5 years, he was entitled to payment of gratuity upon successful exit from the company. He further claimed a total settlement package was communicated to him via e-mail out of which only 50 percent was paid and all effort to get balance proved abortive.

In argument, the firm submitted that Mr Balogun did not attain the threshold of ‘continuous service greater than five years and up to 10 years’ to be qualified for monetary payment in addition to ‘Testimonial of Service’, which is the only package available for those who were in ‘continuous service up to five years’, under the company gratuity that the payment already paid to the claimant was a mistake and it was because of the discovery of the error that it refused to pay the balance and also seeks refund of it.

Counsel to the firm further argued that the claimant’s resignation became effective on date of receipt of the letter of resignation by the employer, and as such, the correct effective date of his resignation was June 14 2013 (submission date), and not October 1, 2008 contained in the resignation letter.

The company’s counsel further said that the claimant’s case lacked merit and should be dismissed while upholding the counter-claim for refund of the sum already paid to the claimant in error.

But counsel to the claimant, U. U Njoku, argued that Notore Chemical failed to tender its payroll to disprove that the claimant was no longer in its pay roll as at October 1, 2013, urging the court to so hold and grant the reliefs sought.

Delivering his judgment, Justice Ogbuanya held that where date was not provided in the resignation, it takes immediate effect upon receipt of resignation, but when effective date is provided, it becomes effective on the last day of the notice period.

“I also note that it is part of the court’s equitable jurisdiction to preserve earned benefits, particularly those of pecuniary nature, and court usually tilts towards resolving such emerging controversy in favour of the beneficiary rather than in favour of one trying to take away or expropriate the benefit.

“From the tenor of the above provisions of the company Gratuity Policy, I find that once an employee attains 5 years of continuous service with the defendant, such an employee shall/must be entitled to not only cash payment as gratuity but also other testimonials and certificate of appreciation and or asset gift.

“In the circumstance of the claimant, I find that he has attained 5 years of continuous service with the defendant and there was no evidence disputing that he resigned wilfully and there was no evidence of any skirmish of probe or low performance tainting his voluntary resignation. I so hold,” Justice Ogbuanya ruled, dismissing the company’s counter-claim for lacking merit.

Modupe Gbadeyanka

Modupe Gbadeyanka is a fast-rising journalist with Business Post Nigeria. Her passion for journalism is amazing. She is willing to learn more with a view to becoming one of the best pen-pushers in Nigeria. Her role models are the duo of CNN's Richard Quest and Christiane Amanpour.

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