Finance

Court dismisses wrongful sack, defamation claims against Mobil Nigeria


Justice Mahmood Namtari of the National Industrial Court, Abuja Division has dismissed a defamation suit filed by Mr Godwin Akpan against Mobil Producing Nigeria.

The judge dismissed the suit on Wednesday for lacking in merit. He held that a servant who claims a wrongful termination of employment must show in what manner the wrong was done.

The court declared that the termination of Mr Akpan’s employment by the first defendant was wrongful. Consequently, the court awarded damages.

Backstory

  • The claimant, (Mr Akpan) told the court that he was offered employment as a Laundryman by Gins Global Ltd, who was a labour and service contractor for Mobil Producing Nig.
  • His lawyer submitted that it was wrong and against custom, norm, and international best practice for the firm to unilaterally convert and transfer his services to another department without his consent.
  • He averred that he was threatened with a sack after his complaint to the General Manager about forced labour
  • He submitted that following his complaints, his employment was terminated for services no longer required without one week’s notice or one week’s salary in lieu of notice as stipulated in his offer of appointment.
  • He averred that Gins Global Ltd conspired with Mobil Producing Nigeria’s security personnel to maliciously defame him before other staff. He prayed the court to grant his reliefs sought.

What happened in court

While Mr Akpan is the claimant in the suit, Gins Global Ltd is the first defendant and Mobil Producing Nigeria, the second defendant:

Throughout the hearing of the case, the first defendant, (Gins Global Ltd) did not enter any formal appearance, file any defence, and was not legally represented in court.

In its defence, Mobil Producing Nig. (The second defendant) argued that any person whose services was no longer required cannot access any of its facilities.

It submitted that it never blacklisted or accused the claimant of any criminal act and no witness or third party testified to prove the publication of the said slanderous words.

Mobil Producing Nigeria contended that the claimant admitted in evidence that it was not the claimant’s employer which was so proved by the Service Outline Agreement.

Mobil’s lawyer submitted that there existed no privity of contract between its client and the claimant to warrant any liability on its part.

They prayed the court to dismiss the suit with exemplary costs for being frivolous, vexatious and fictitious.

Nwabueze Onukogu, the claimant’s lawyer, opposed the submissions of the second defendant. He submitted that it was contrary to international labour standards for employers to terminate the employment of their employees without stating reasons.

What the judge ruled

  • After listening to submissions and arguments from parties in the suit, the court held that Gins Global Ltd stipulated one week notice or one week salary in lieu of notice was not complied with in termination of the claimant’s employment and no evidence existed that his severance benefits were paid.
  • The judge said the termination of the claimant’s employment was not in accordance with the employment agreement.
  • Consequently, the court ordered the firm to pay the claimant, the sum of N120,000 as severance benefit and N75,000 as his 2019 contract bonus.
  • The court also ordered the payment of N180,000 being the claimant’s three months salary as general damages for unlawful termination of employment.
  • The court awarded the sum of N375,000 in favour of the claimant.



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