Abimbola Dayo-Aiyetan, a former management staff at United Bank for Africa (UBA), has been awarded over N44 million in damages by a National Industrial Court sitting in Lagos, after she was coerced into resigning from her position by the bank’s hierarchy in 2016.
According to a copy of the judgement obtained by FIJ, Abimbola, who until her resignation was UBA’s head of procurement and vendor management, got into the bank’s top management’s bad books when she refused to compromise on the company’s procurement process.
It all started when she insisted on following due diligence in awarding contracts, refusing to bow to pressures from the chairman and board directors to award contracts to cronies.
Pages From the Court Judgment
After the incident, and based on the contents of the judgment, Abimbola, who had given nine years of her career to UBA, was verbally advised by the bank to resign without being offered any justifiable reason or face outright dismissal.
THE NATIONAL INDUSTRIAL COURT
After forcefully ejecting Abimbola from her job, UBA only paid her N14, 087,780 — a far cry from the total severance or termination benefits expected to be paid to a staff exiting the bank at her level.
With this, she was left with no other choice than to seek legal redress.
At the court hearing, which began on June 26, 2018, the bank’s legal representatives claim that Abimbola, among other things, failed to provide any evidence that the bank indeed coerced her into resigning.
The bank’s lawyers also claimed that the former group head simply voluntarily resigned her appointment without being forced to do so.
A copy of the Court Judgment
According to a copy of the judgement seen by FIJ, UBA’s legal representatives added that Dayo-Aiyetan suddenly woke up and started demanding for more money through her lawyers, six months after her resignation, and after accepting the N14,087,780 benefit.
While defending Abimbola’s position, her lawyers tendered documents which included an email she had sent to the bank, vehemently protesting the directive to resign.
Her legal team also presented an internal memo showing that another staff had already been appointed to take over her position (in acting capacity), rendering her redundant until she was forced to exit the system a month later.
The employee’s lawyers then pointed out that the contract of employment that was initially signed by both the employer and the employee must be respected as far as the matter was concerned.
They maintained that the bank “repressively oppressed the employee into submission and further threatened her that if she did not resign, she would be disgracefully shown the way out without any benefits”.
THE COURT’S DECISION
While delivering his judgment, Justice R.H Gwandu, the presiding judge, held that the employee being made redundant could be perceived as a deliberate act by the bank.
“The claimant has maintained she was forced to resign and that the events leading up to her resignation was calculated to push her to that point. The defendant (UBA) was not in a restructuring exercise, neither did they prove that the laid off staff as a result of redundancy,” the judge said.
“The claimant being made redundant therefore would be perceived as a deliberate act which can be evidenced from exhibit ADA page 18 where it can be seen that the claimant was replaced as Head, Group Procurement and Vendor Management via memo dated January 19, 2016, a month before the claimant’s resignation.
“It is pertinent to note that there is no evidence she was transferred nor given another post when she was replaced.
“The fact that the claimant was replaced meant she was deliberately made redundant by the defendant (UBA) which is contrary to the provision of the Labour Act that an employer has the duty to provide work for an employee and also reinforces the claimant’s allegation that she was forced to resign.
“From the evidence before me and the reasons adduced above, I hereby hold that the claimant was by the defendant’s actions coerced into resigning her appointment with the defendant.”
The judge also established that the resignation letter handed in by Abimbola showed that discussions, though verbal, were held between the employer and the employee before she eventually exited the bank. This pronouncement countered the claims made by the bank’s lawyers that no prior verbal discussions were held before she resigned.
SUMS AWARDED TO ABIMBOLA
To conclude his ruling, the judge ruled that N20 million be paid by UBA to Dayo-Aiyetan as general damages.
It was also ruled that the former staff be paid 12 months of her gross salary which is in the range of N23 million. In addition, she was also awarded the sum of N1.5 million as fees spent on legal representation.
UBA is to pay the ordered sums within one month of the judgment or risk paying an addition interest of 10 percent per annum until they are fully liquidated.