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Court Orders BOI to Reinstate Sacked AGM, Sonny Ekedayen Seven Years After Untimely Exit

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The National Industrial Court has ordered the Bank of Industry (BOI), to reinstate a former Assistant General Manager, Mr. Sonny Ekedayen, seven years after he was untimely asked to resign his appointment by the then Managing Director of the bank, Mr. Rasheed Olaoluwa.

Justice R. H. Gwandu, apart from ordering his immediate reinstatement, also said his salaries and allowances should be paid from the date of the purported termination till today, warning that failure to do so will be treated as contempt of the court, which will attract a 10 percent per annum interest until it is fully liquidated.

The claimant, in a suit, filed by Abimbola Akeredolu (SAN), who led other lawyers, said Olaoluwa, who was in office between May 2014 and February 2016, on November 20, 2015, after he had spent 12 years in the service of the bank, ordered him to resign his employment with the bank on voluntary early retirement.

This, he said, is contrary to the terms of the Employment Contract and the Conditions of Service, which stipulates that the bank can only terminate his employment by giving him three months’ notice of termination or payment of three months’ salary in lieu of notice, provided such termination is carried out with the approval of the Board of Directors.

Ekedayen stated that this also amounted to his being “prematurely terminated” as he was 50-years-old as at the time he was asked to leave the bank, when the compulsory retirement age for every employee was 60 years of age or 35 years in service, whichever comes first.

Granting the reliefs sought, Gwandu said, “forcing an employee to resign is not an offence that should be taken lightly. It is a gross misuse of power and position, a vagrant display of superiority, and most of all, an infringement on the Claimants rights as guaranteed under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999.”

The former bank MD, he agreed, was not in any position to direct or force the resignation of any staff, if they must do so, it should be on their own volition, or the company’s internal mechanism has to come into play.

“It is trite law that a contract of service is indeed the foundation upon which an aggrieved employee must found his case. The Court can only interpret and enforce the agreement entered into by the parties and is incapable of making any contract for them.

“Therefore, the Court, in construing the relationship of the parties to a written agreement of employment, must confine itself to the plain words and meaning, which are derivable from their rights and obligations thereunder.

“Hence, the Court will not look into any matter outside the terms stipulated and previously agreed upon by the parties to the contract, in determining the respective rights and obligations of the parties.

“Now, can the Defendant say it abided with the Claimant’s terms of employment before purportedly terminating his employment? The answer is no. The human resources manual and the letter of employment both give a clear basis for termination, that was not complied with both in forcing the Claimant to resign and the letter of termination, which I have already set aside, a letter that was never served on the Claimant.

“As I have said, it goes without saying that this relief should succeed, if only for the sole reason that an employee’s employment cannot be terminated, except in accordance with the provisions of the Claimant’s Employment Contract and Conditions Service. It is granted accordingly” the judge averred.

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