The National Industrial Court (NIC), Abuja ruled that Zenith Bank wrongfully fired Mr. Abdulazeez Ibrahim, a former employee, in a N7bn fraud case and consequently awarded the young man compensation in the sum of about N42.8m over the unlawful dismissal.
According to Entertainment Express News, Ibrahim, a former Deputy Manager with Zenith Bank Plc, had sued the bank, challenging the decision of its management terminating his appointment over a purported N7bn fraud said to have been perpetrated by a syndicate within the bank.
The presiding judge, Justice O. Shogbola, in his judgment, awarded N42m in favour of the plaintiff, to cover for salaries, allowances and interests accruable to the plaintiff for the period of his suspension and subsequent sacking by the bank.
The judge held that the report of the police investigation into the alleged N7bn fraud exonerated the claimant. Shogbola therefore advised the bank not to rubbish its workers on mere suspicion, stressing that the bank must not be misled into believing that it had the power of life and death over its workers.
The judge held, “The investigation of the coordinated fraud of N7bn was reported to the Nigeria Police for investigation. The fraud was investigated and the police came up with a report, exonerating the claimant from any guilt.
“While it is appreciated that the defendant cannot be denied the right to investigate the N7bn fraud which they claimed was stolen, caution must, however, be taken not to rubbish every staff member of the bank on mere suspicion.
“The defendant must not be misled that it has the power of life and death over his employees by his counsel.
“The claimant is therefore entitled to his salary from August 6, 2010 to March 8, 2013, as he was still in the employment of the defendant. The disciplinary committee concluded the investigation since June 14, 2010 and recommended the claimant’s appointment be terminated.”
Shogbola also put on the bank N200,000 as the cost the plaintiff expended in instituting the legal action.
The plaintiff had, through his counsel, Mr. Mohammed Lukman, approached the NIC to challenge his sacking. He also prayed for an order of the court compelling Zenith Bank to pay him all his outstanding salaries from August 10, 2010 to March 18, 2013 when his appointment was terminated.
A copy of the judgment delivered on February 16, 2015, but obtained on Sunday revealed that Ibrahim was suspended from work on August 6, 2010 and his appointment terminated in March 2013 without salary.
In his judgement in the suit, NIC/ABJ/266/2003, Shogbola directed Zenith Bank to pay Lawal N30.6m being his total salary from August 6, 2010 to March 2013 when his appointment was terminated.
The judge also directed the bank to pay additional allowances and interest at the prevailing rate when the claimants was wrongfully sacked.
The court also awarded to the claimant a month’s salary in lieu of notice, as his appointment was terminated without adherence to the terms of the contractual agreement, requiring either party to give a month notice before terminating the appointment