Court Declares Withholding of Salary Arrears an ‘Unfair Labour Practice’

National Industrial Court

His Lordship, Hon. Justice Zaynab Bashir of the Portharcourt Judicial Division of the National Industrial Court has ordered Monier Construction Company to compute and pay its former staff Engr. Oghenetejiri Akpotaghware severance benefits along with any other arrears of salaries due to him pursuant to the termination of his employment within 7 days.

The Court held that the practice of unduly holding back Engr. Oghenetejiri severance benefits after he handed over the company properties in his possession as an unfair labour practice, awarded the sum of N300,000.00 (three hundred thousand naira only) for general damages and the sum of N300,000.00 (three hundred thousand naira only) for the cost of action against the firm.

From facts, the claimant – Engr. Oghenetejiri Akpotaghware had submitted that his employment was abruptly terminated and after he handed over all the company properties in his possession as directed that the company failed to pay his outstanding salary arrears after repeated demands, urged the court to grant reliefs sought in the interest of justice.

In defence, the firm averred that Engr. Oghenetejiri was laid off, along with others due to the downsizing of the Workforce owing to the present economic downturn in the country and that it followed strictly the laid down procedure as contained in their Agreement but owing to the refusal and neglect of the Claimant to properly hand over the properties/documents of the company in his possession that the Accounts Department is yet to conclude the computation of the severance benefit, hence the demand for the sum of N3,000,00.00 (Three Million Naira) only or any other sum is baseless and unfounded.

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The firm Counsel N.A. Ayewoh Esq concluded that Engr Oghenetejiri has not made out any case to entitle him to the reliefs sought, urged the court to dismiss the action with substantial costs.

Delivering the Judgment, the presiding Judge, Justice Zaynab Bashir held that the firm has no valid reason to withhold Engr. Oghenetejiri severance benefit.

“It is an afterthought on the part of the firm to posit that their failure to pay the Claimant his severance benefit is due to the refusal of the Claimant to handover Defendant’s property in his possession.

“In addition to the foregoing, the Claimant failed to place before this court any evidence which can establish that he is entitled to overtime pay, 7.5% salary bonus and Christmas bonus.

“That notwithstanding, I reckon that the Defendant admitted that it had not paid the Claimant his severance benefit and that the failure to pay is due to the misconception that the Claimant still has the Defendant’s property in his possession.” Justice Zaynab Bashir


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