The Presiding Judge, Benin Judicial division of the National Industrial Court, His Lordship, Hon. Justice Adunola Adewemimo has ordered C&I Leasing Plc to immediately obtain and handover to Mr Harry Akpisheri Yearly Tax receipts and clearance certificates from February 2009 to December 2016; or If unpaid, pay the taxes applicable with attendant fines/cost of default to be assessed by the relevant tax authority and obtain tax receipts/ tax clearance certificates covering that period and hand same over to Mr Harry.
The Court also ordered the firm to pay Mr Harry the sum of N433,243.56k annual leave allowance for 2016, N2,000,000.00 (Two Million Naira) general damages for the psychological trauma and hardship suffered, and One Hundred Thousand cost of action within 30 days.
In summary, the case of the claimant is that he was employed vide a letter dated 20th February 2009 and worked till 27th June 2014 when his employment was terminated due to restructuring and was later renewed on 1st July 2014, and later retired in December 2016.
The claimant stated that upon his retirement, he requested for a letter of disengagement/retirement to access his retirement savings but the defendant failed to comply with his request.
That his solicitors wrote to the defendant to demand for his letter of retirement, his annual leave allowance for 2016, tax receipts and tax certificates, but the defendant persistently refused to meet his demands, pleaded that the action of the defendant subjected his family and himself to untold hardship.
In opposition, the defendant submitted that the claimant opened retirement savings account into which his statutory deductions were remitted, but unaware of any formal requirement to produce a letter of disengagement/retirement to gain access to the pension funds, that the Collective agreement relied on by the claimant was not in existence at the commencement of the claimant’s employment for a fixed term, and thus not applicable to him.
The defendant denied that the claimant made any formal request that the certificate of retirement dated 2016, was issued, but unable to deliver same because the address provided by him on his record turned out to be fictitious. The certificate was however eventually transmitted to the claimant after the institution of the suit.
Furthermore, Counsel to the defendant objected and submitted that the Court lacks the jurisdiction to entertain the suit because the claimant is no longer in the employment of the defendant, at the time of commencement of the suit and claim for terminal benefits, urged the court to dismiss this suit and award a cost of N2,000,000.00 (Two Million Naira) in his favour.
In reply, learned counsel argued that claimant’s action is for his unpaid leave allowance and his tax certificate and receipts, in the light of the application of collective agreements to his employment with the defendant, urged the court to enter judgment in favour of the claimant by granting the reliefs sought.
Delivering Judgment, the presiding Judge, Justice Adewemimo dismissed the objection for being unmeritorious and held that matters pertaining, incidental to or connected with employment relationships, interpretation of collective agreements are well within the jurisdiction of the Court, and same can validly be entertained by the court.
“A study of the evidence on record in this case, and Exhibit KP3- collective agreement reveals that it is an agreement between the defendant and the NUPENG of the defendant’s branch. It is also in evidence that the claimant was a member of NUPENG and in proof, the claimant tendered Exhibit KP4(i-ix)i.e. Payslips which reveals that deductions were made from his salary for the claimant’s union.
“In the light of all the above, it can be safely concluded that collective agreement is to apply to new and existing members of NUPENG who are in the employment of the defendant, for the duration of the collective agreement.
“The defendant’s assertion that ExhibitKP3 does not apply to the claimant in this wise is untenable. The collective Agreement i.e. ExhibitKP3 having come into existence during the claimant’s employment and before his retirement from the defendant, becomes the operating collective agreement applicable to him, based on the evidence led in this case. I find further that It will be a grave injustice to suggest otherwise, as, without doubt, the claimant is at all material times entitled to any benefits of the employment that accrues during the pendency of his service.” Justice Adewemimo