Court declares Indefinite Suspension as wrongful, orders Heritage Bank to pay ex-staff 26 Months Salaries within 30 days

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The Presiding Judge, Owerri Judicial division of the National Industrial Court, His Lordship, Hon. Justice Ibrahim Galadima has declared that the continued indefinite suspension without pay of Mr Caleb Ahaoma Ikpe from the employment of Heritage Bank Of Nigeria Ltd and Xl HR Outsourcing Limited despite his exculpation by the Police for any wrongdoings as wrongful, oppressive and contrary to the principles and dictates of natural justice; converted the said indefinite suspension to termination with immediate effect.

Justice Galadima ordered Heritage Bank Of Nigeria Ltd and Xl HR Outsourcing Limited to either jointly or severally pay Caleb his salaries from May 2018 to the date of the judgment 10th July 2020, and the sum of N500,000 general damages within 30.

From facts, the Claimant- Caleb Ahaoma had submitted that 2nd Defendant- XL HR OUTSOURCING employed and deployed him to serve in the 1st Defendant – HERITAGE BANK OF NIGERIA as a contract employee. He said further that he was conspired against at work, queried and a petition was written to the Police, upon thorough investigation, it was concluded that the allegation made against him was baseless and false.

While awaiting the conclusion on the alleged misconduct the 2nd Defendant recalled and placed him on an indefinite suspension without salary that his employment was neither dismissed nor terminated that he has suffered untold hardships.

In defence, Learned Counsel for the 2nd Defendant- J.I. OGAMBA Esq admitted that Claimant was never terminated or dismissed by the firm that his salary was only stopped, and his employment placed on what is known as Keep in view (KIV) list, adumbrated that a suspension of an employee cannot be regarded as a breach of the servant’s fundamental or common law rights.

Learned Counsel averred further that the Claimant having been placed on suspension, cannot make any demands from his master as his salary had been stopped and his employment “KIVed” urged the Court to, therefore, disregard the claims set up by the Claimant and dismiss the suit entirely.

Counsel to the HB, B. FAOTU Esq and G. AMA-OKORIE Esq urged the court to dismiss the case that the bank should not have been sued not being a party to the original agreement entered into with the firm.

In opposition, learned Claimant Counsel K.C. NWUFO (SAN); H.U. UDENSI  Esq reasoned that the Defendants are both bound by the contract of employment that the 2nd Defendant must at best, be considered as an agent of the 1st Defendant, that having breached the terms of the contract of employment, the Defendants were liable in damages for such breach.

Delivering Judgment after careful perusal of the submissions of both counsel, the presiding Judge, Justice Galadima satisfied that the relationship between this Claimant and the Defendants was triangular in nature and the Claimant is within his rights to institute any action against them both (either severally and or jointly) for any personal claims or injuries he may have suffered or sustained in the pendency of his employment.

“I agree with the learned Counsel for the 2nd Defendant that the suspension of an employee’s employment or service is not a breach of his fundamental rights, I am unconvinced that his continued indefinite suspension without pay even after the conduct of investigations for the alleged misconduct will not become wrongful, illegal, oppressive and against natural justice.

“Ordinarily, it ought to be expected that the period of suspension shall end upon the conduct of the investigations and thereafter the Claimant’s fate must be decided whether to terminate or to reinstate him.

“Either way, such suspension shall seem unfair and wrongful (not to mention oppressive), if it is still allowed indefinitely despite the outcome of any investigations. This is regardless of the fact that nothing contained in the offer of employment refers to the employers’ rights to suspend the Claimant for any wrongdoings.”

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