Most employees in Nigeria seek the benefits they are owed even after exiting an organisation. An employee is an individual who works under the supervision or control of an employer.
An employee has the right to seek such payment so far as it has been earned. Meaning that they worked for it at that time.
This case serves as a guide to employees who want to seek benefits owed by the previous organization even after exiting the organization.
The case is between Engr. Tarfa Garba (Claimant) vs. Ashaka Cement PLC and Lafarge Holdings Ltd. (Defendants).
Facts of the case
- Mr Garba, (the claimant) in his submissions narrated that he was an employee of Ashaka Cement PLC of which he was entitled to certain allowances while in the employment of the company as stated in his letter of appointment.
- Mr Garba told the court that on October 20, 2009, he was appointed the Maiganga Coal Mines Manager and as a result of that appointment, he submitted his professional license, certificate and curriculum vitae to the Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel Development as the Mining Engineer personally supervising the activities at the mines.
- In 2011, He was transferred from the Mines to the Quarry Section of Ashaka Cement. He averred that his credentials were not withdrawn by the Defendants until sometime in November 2015 when he left the organization.
- He said In October 2011, January 2014 and July 2014 he was transferred in the course of his employment with the defendants but his transfer allowances weren’t paid until he left the employment of the defendant.
- He said mining activities at the Maiganga Coal Mines were not stopped at any time throughout the period as a result of the usage of his credentials for which he seeks payment of allowances and compensation for the wrongful usage of his credentials.
- On May 30, 2017, the claimant approached the court and filed a complaint against his former employer, Ashaka Cement PLC.
- A declaration that the claimant is entitled to the sum of N163,800 monthly as acting allowance as per his appointment as mines operation manager from the period of October 2009 to October 2011 culminating in the sum of N4,095,000.00 only in the course of his employment with the defendant.
- An order directing the defendant to pay the sum of N4,095,000.00 only as acting allowance to the claimant for the period of October 2009 to October 2011 in the course of his employment.
- A Declaration that the claimant is entitled to the sum of N603,667.83 as transfer allowances for the periods of October 2011, January 2014, and July 2014 during which period he was transferred in the course of his employment with the defendant.
- An order directing the defendant to pay to the claimant the sum of N603,667.83 as transfer allowances for the periods of October 2011, January 2014 and July 2014 during which he was transferred in the course of his employment with the defendant.
- A declaration that the claimant is entitled to the sum of N500,000,000 being payment for the usage of the claimant’s professional certificates, license and curriculum vitae.
- An order directing the defendant to pay to the claimant the sum of N500,000,000 being payment for the usage of the claimant’s professional certificates, license and curriculum vitae.
- An order directing the defendant to pay the claimant the sum of N500,000 as professional fees paid to his lawyer and the cost of instituting the action.
Ashaka Cement Plc. is the first defendant and Lafarge Holdings Ltd. is the second defendant.
They averred that Mr Garba was a previous staff of the 1st Defendant, whose engagement was terminated in 2015.
They said Mr Garba dropped a photocopy of his credentials with the Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel Development as the Mining Engineer as required by the Mining laws.
According to them, submitting his photocopies never prevented him from using his original certificates or his certificates for that matter elsewhere.
They submitted that the claimant executed the voluntary release form and he was paid the sum of N7,770,157.05 on August 14, 2015, as his terminal entitlement as reflected in the indemnity form and as such, he is not owed any further money whatsoever.
Counsel to the defendants raised two issues for determination. “Whether or not the claimant has proved his case based on the preponderance of the evidence? and Whether or not the claimant is entitled to the reliefs sought?
On issue one, the lawyer submitted that the reliefs sought by Mr Garba are declaratory in nature and the law in that regard is that, declaratory reliefs are not granted based on the admission of facts by the Respondent or Defendant(s).
On the N163, 800.00 monthly claimed by Mr Garba as acting allowance, the defendants argued that he is only entitled to the payment of 10% of his monthly salary, as provided in the worker’s handbook or conditions of service for seniors.
The lawyer submitted that N136, 500.00, was the basic salary of the claimant as at 2009 and 10% of the claimant’s acting allowance would be N13,650.00 as opposed to N163, 800.00 alleged by the claimant.
The lawyer maintained that the claimant did not lead any credible evidence to refute the above-stated facts.
The lawyer submitted that it is trite law that the court will accept as established that the claimant was only entitled to N13, 650, 00 as acting allowance and not N163, 800,00 he claimed. He urged the court to judge in that light.
The lawyer revealed that the N163, 800.00 as acting allowance stated in his letter of employment was an error of which the employment letter cannot supersede the workers’ handbook (exhibit DB) of the Defendants.
Regarding the payment of N500,000 for the usage of the claimant’s professional certificates, license and Curriculum Vitae as mines operational manager for the periods of October 2011 to November 2015, the lawyer submitted that the claimant’s assertion and evidence had no credible, solid, reliable and believable evidence to prove or establish the claimed relief.
The lawyer also submitted that Mr Garba never led or offered any evidence to show that he was not paid any transfer allowance and his bank statement from October 2011 to January 2014 and July 2014 was not tendered to confirm the allegation of the claimant in that regard.
Consequently, the defendants prayed the court to refuse Mr Garba’s reliefs for lacking merit.
How the judge ruled
After listening to submissions from both counsels, Justice K. I. Amadi ruled as follows;
- The Judge ordered Ashaka Cement PLC to pay Mr Garba the sum of N2,000,000 as compensation for the period he was engaged as the supervising mining engineer during which period he did not so act.
- The judge also ordered the cement company to pay Mr Garba the sum of N100,000 as cost of the suit.
- The court ordered that all financial awards in the judgment be paid to the claimant on or before March 30, 2020 and failure to do that before the allotted time attracts 20% interest per annum until full liquidation
- The judge dismissed all other claims by Mr Garba.
Basis for judgement
On the N163, 800.00 monthly acting allowance demanded by the claimant, the judge said:
“I hereby find that the salary of the claimant was N1,638,000:00 per annum; that is N136,500 per month. While his acting allowance was the sum of N163,800:00 per annum (not per month) that is N13,650:00 per month.
“The claimant was paid the aforesaid sum of money monthly from 2009 to 2011 during the period that he acted as Mining Manager. He never complained nor raised the issue of underpayment. Worst still the claim here is not for the payment of the balance having already received the aforesaid sum of N13,650:00 per month when he acted.
“I completely agree with the learned counsel for the defendant that there is a mistake in exhibit CC in that the phrase ‘per month’ after the sum of N163,8OO:00 ought to be ‘per annum’. Consequently, claims A and D have failed and been dismissed.”
On Claims 3 and 4 which deal with the issue of the sum of N603,667.83 as transfer allowances for the periods he was transferred, the judge said the claimant did not plead the fact that he used his personal money or borrowed money to move to his new locations on transfer.
“There is no evidence that the claimant ever demanded for the payment of the aforesaid allowances if not paid then, yet he collected his terminal benefits and signed his indemnity release bond which freed the defendants from any further financial obligations. I hold that this claim is an afterthought. I hold that the claimant has failed to prove these claims and they are consequently dismissed,” he said.
On Claims 5 and 6 which deal with the sum of N500,000,000:00 for the use of the claimant’s credentials, certificates and curriculum vitae. The defendants submitted that the import of the provisions of section 73(1) of the Mining Act 2007, is that once a mining license is granted in respect of a lease for mining, the mining activities can only be carried out when there is a qualified Mining Engineer with requisite experience who shall personally supervise the mining operations and once he is not there the mining activities shall cease.
“It follows then that the only way to meet the requirement above is to submit the credentials, certificates, license and curriculum vitae of the employee who met the above requirement to the supervising Ministry, and that was exactly done by the defendants.
“By doing so on record, the defendants held out the claimant as the engineer supervising their Mining operations. It is therefore equitable that for the period his person was so held out as the Supervising Mining Engineer when in fact he was not, he should be compensated.
“The reason being that without holding him out as the Supervising Mining Engineer, the mining activities of the defendants will come to a halt, else they will be mining illegally. In view of the provision of section 19(d) of the National Industrial Court Act 2006, I award him N2,000,000:00,” the judge added.