Court throws out demand for gratuity by ex-Ecobank staff

Sep 20, 2019
The National Industrial Court in Port Harcourt on Wednesday threw out a request by a former Ecobank Nigeria staff, Millicent Makililo that she be paid gratuity when she did not serve the bank for mandatory 10 years that qualifies her for same in accordance to the bank’s policy.
 
Hon. Justice Zaynab Bashir declared on the claim for gratuity, “the Claimant has woefully failed to prove that she has worked for the Defendant for a period of 10 years and therefore is not entitled to gratuity. Consequently, relief two fails and is accordingly dismissed.”
 
The court however, ordered the defendant to pay to the claimant the sum of N173, 926, being the outstanding balance of N343, 926-04 to be paid as salary in lieu of notice of termination within 10 days.
 
According to the Judge, the termination letter served Millicent Makililo was wrongful and ordered payment of complete salary in lieu of notice of termination within 10 days.
 
The claimant had approached the court claiming among others for a declaration that the purported termination letter served on her by the defendant dated the 3rd day of May 2017 was null and avoid and a declaration that she is entitled to be paid the sum of N9,053,317.72 as gratuity having worked for the defendant for a period of ten (10) years.
 
The claimant was employed by the defendant on June 17, 2008, as an Executive Assistant, confirmed on 2nd June 2009.
 
She said that to her greatest surprise, the defendant terminated her employment in a letter dated 3rd day of May 2017 without any reason whatsoever contrary to natural justice and Ecobank policy.
 
She averred that the defendant was dodging from the claimant clocking 10 years in service with Ecobank, a situation the defendant did not want the claimant to achieve by their own gimmick and calculations.
 
The claimant added that out of the sum of N343.926.04 which is her basic salary per month, the defendant in paying her one month’s salary in lieu of notice, paid only the sum of N 169,954.52.
 
The defendant averred that though there is a gratuity scheme, it is for employees who had worked for 10 years at the time of leaving the employment and that the claimant did not work up-to 10 years, urging the court to dismiss the suit as wholly lacking in merit.
 
Counsel to the defendant contended that from the handbook, no provision for one month’s basic salary in lieu of notice and that what the parties contracted for in terms of termination of the contract of employment was one month notice or one month salary in lieu of notice.
 
Delivering the Judgment, the presiding Judge, Justice Zaynab expressed thus “I have taken a further look at the provision of paragraph vi of exhibit C2 which is the contract of employment and find that the Defendant was to pay ‘one month’s salary in lieu of notice’. There was no use of the word ‘basic’ or ‘gross’ to qualify the said salary.
 
“The court is in no position to input the word ‘basic’ or ‘gross’ to the phrase ‘One Month’s salary’ in the absence of such express provision in the contract of employment than what will be paid as salary in lieu of notice is ‘basic’ salary.”
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