116 former employees of United Bank for Africa (UBA) Plc have Slammed a N2.015 billion suit on the bank before the Lagos Division of National Industrial Court over alleged wrongful terminated appointments.
The former staff, whose appointments were terminated early this year, are demanding the money as compensation for their sack and breach of contract.
The former bankers also want the court to declare that the personal loans given to them by UBA Plc between August and December, 2019 was unconscionable, oppressive and against all known tenets of Corporate decency.
They are further asking the court for an order cancelling the loans or alternatively, ordering UBA Plc to apply insurance proceeds to the payment of the outstanding loans and updating their terminal benefits accordingly.
The plaintiffs also want the court to compel the bank to pay their salaries from the date of ‘constructive’ dismissal to the date of judgment.
They also asked the court to order UBA to remit the 2.5% NHF deductions from their salaries to the fund. Alternatively, an order mandating UBA Plc to credit the their accounts with the deductions made from their salaries as NHF contribution with interest at the rate of 25%.
Furthermore, they want the court to make an order mandating UBA plc, to provide satisfactory references when requested without reference alleged non- performance and outstanding loans. And asked the court to award to them N10 million damages each against UBA Plc, for alleged defamation of character and N50 million been cost of action.
The former bankers in the Suit marked NICN/La/112/2020 against UBA Plc include: Adams Halimat Atta; Adedamola Olayemi Daramola; Adedeji Olubukola Adesola; Adedeji Oladipupo Soliu; Adeleke Anota Adeola; Adenike Bankole; Adenola Sunday Dare; Adeoti Adewale Wasiu; Adewole Kehinde Oluwadere; Adewale Opeyemi; Adiabokpa Godfrey and Adisa Ademola Khabir.
Others include; Ajayi Samuel Jaiyeola; AfolayanOluwakemi M; Agbana Oluwakemi Deborah; Agbo Chinyere Maureen; Agbede Oluwakemi Toyin Fawehinmi; Adewole Ajibike Olusola; Adeniran Adeyinka Ajoke Nee Daniel; Akingbade Olufemi John; Akinyemi Lawal; Alabi Olajide Abiodun; Alake Dorcas Jumoke; Alice bako; Anieze Ifeoma Pauline; Anyaogu Patience Akunna; Arundu Hope; Atafo Oziegbe Godwin; Azeez Ayokunle Temitayo and Azubuike Opone Ufuoma.
The claimants also include; Azuh Ngozi Jovita; Badmus Idris Bambo; Balogun Sunday Emmanuel; Bamgbose Sumbo; Bayode Ajayi Austine; Bose Imarughe; Bosunde Olufemi Olusegun; Cecilia Wilson Ochenje; Charity Ijeoma Onyekwere, Chinyere Ezekwu and 76 others.
The claimants in statement of material facts filed before the court through their lawyer, Mr. Elvis E. Asia, claimed that they were staff of UBA Plc until they were constructively dismissed on January 3, 2020 along with many others. And that between January 3 and 6 2020, UBA Plc invited them to meetings at their various branches and asked them to resign immediately. And that they were further told that resignation was a condition precedent to being paid terminal benefits.
The claimants averred that after writing the resignation letters that they discovered that they were already exited from the bank before they were asked to resign, as they were denied access to the bank’s portal from the end of January 3, 2020 and the exit letters from the bank was received from January 14, 2020 but backdated to January 3, 2020.
They averred that the bank perfected the mass sack before surreptitiously compelling them to resign in order to deny many of them their terminal benefits through loans availed them few weeks before the sack. Adding that by the terms of the loan, repayment was insured in the event of involuntary loss of job. The desperation to get the Claimant to resign was deliberately to deny them of the benefit of the insurance and their benefits.
The Claimants also averred that they were paid meagre benefits and were debited with the outstanding loans which ought to have been taken care of by insurance being that their employment was not brought to an end voluntarily. Adding that during the course of employment, they were subjected to discriminatory and unfair labour practices by the Defendant.
They averred further that after they were constructively dismissed, UBA Plc admitted that they and the other staff that were sacked were retrenched but claimed that they were ‘toxic imputers’ and ‘disconnected individuals’. And that they were never at anytime given any query for non-performance or for being toxic imputers or disconnected individuals. Stating that the Bank made the claim to lower their estimation in the eyes of right thinking members of society.
On constructive dismissal, the claimants aver that between January 3 and 6, 2020, they were locked in meeting rooms at their various branches and told that the management of the bank had decided that they should resign immediately. They stated that they were further informed that payment of terminal benefits was conditional on the resignation. They were placed in confinement till about 10:30-11pm on January 3, 2020 and were only allowed to leave after being compelled to resign against their will.
They stated that after the meeting, resignation letters were forwarded to them and they received exit letters from UBA Plc between January 14 and March 2, 2020, and the exit letters erroneously implied that they voluntarily left the services of the Bank and were backdated to January 3, 2020 before the resignation letters.
They averred that due to the shock and pressure to resign, many of them wrote the resignation letters by hand and did not have copies after giving it to the Bank as directed.
On alleged unconscionable and oppressive loan, the Claimants averred that prior to their unjust, wrongful and unceremonious ouster from the bank, UBA Plc surreptitiously made them to accept unconscionable and oppressive loans with interest at the rate of 18% and 1.5% for insurance. And that the personal loans were tactfully foisted on them for two reasons. The first was that UBA Plc wanted to meet up with the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) Loan to Deposit Ratio. And second reason became apparent after they were forced out of the bank which was a ploy by UBA Plc to take back what would be due to them as terminal benefits.
They averred further that they were lured to take the loans between August and December, 2019, which was done despite the fact that plans were in motion to terminate their employment. And that Some of them received the loans less than four weeks before they were constructively dismissed from the bank.
Further to the above, the Claimants stated that the offer letter containing the terms of the loan was the same except for the amount which varied. And that they were made to sign the offer letter in the office in a hurry and many of them were not given copies of the signed offer letters.
The Claimants averred that before the loan was given to them, the defendant published a personal loan paper or an information memorandum on the loan which shows that the loan was to be insured by through HEIRS Insurance
Brokers Limited, a company which is part of a group of companies substantially owned by Tony Elumelu, the Chairman of UBA Plc. And that the bank made them to pay for insurance but were never given any insurance certificate or shown any document which proves that HEIRS Insurance Brokers Limited actually provided insurance services after taking money from the Claimants.
They averred that they shall contend at trial that HEIRS Insurance Brokers was a conduit and part of the scheme through which UBA Plc fraudulently took back part of the benefits due to them. Adding that UBA deliberately used them to give a false sense of compliance with CBN’s regulation on Loan to Deposit Ratio and as a way of denying them part or all of their benefits before the planned termination.
The Claimants averred further that apart from the deliberate appropriation of part of their terminal benefits through unconscionable loans in some cases weeks to the mass sack, the terminal benefits paid by the Defendant was meagre and inconsistent. And that un some cases, some of them who had put in 10 years of service received less than staff with less than 10 years of service.
They averred that they have been arbitrarily dismissed from the bank
after putting in their youthful years to its services and through the instrumentality of unconscionable loans, have been given nothing to lean on going forward. They have also been denied access to the credit market in Nigeria by the Defendant.
On alleged discriminatory and unfair labour practices, the claimants stated that their unjust exit from the bank is consistent with the bank’s discriminatory and unfair labour practices. And that shortly before their wrongful termination of employments, UBA Plc had employed contract staff with higher salaries and that they were made to train the new staff who were promoted at the same time they were laid off unceremoniously.
They stated that the bank had refused to promote them for many years despite doing well in various performance reviews. And that there was never
any warning or query on performance and neither did the bank put up any measure in that regard in line with the policy of the bank.
They stated that they shall content at trial that the deliberate refusal to promote them was part of UBA Plc’s slavish disposition and exploitation of the staff that joined the bank with OND, Diploma and HND certificates. They added that many of them who joined the bank with OND/HND certificates and despite
subsequently obtaining university degrees and even in some cases, Masters
Degrees, the bank continued to pay them differently from staff that joined the bank with university degrees.
The claimants also states that during the course of employment, UBA Plc made 2.5% deductions from their salaries for National Housing Fund (NHF) contribution but failed to remit the funds in line with the applicable law. And that They have
therefore been denied access to housing loans under the NHF scheme.
On alleged defamation of character, the claimants averred that on January 6, 2020 at the Amphitheatre, UBA House Lagos, the Chairman of UBA, Mr. Tony Elumelu announced to all staff and the whole world that they are ‘Toxic Inputters and Disconnected Individuals. This they said was defamatory and a desperate attempt to justify the ‘retrenchment’ which he admitted was carried out on Friday January 3, 2020.
They further averred that by the said false statement, the UBA Plc suggested that they were poisonous, dangerous, disoriented and have lost touch with reality and therefore should be avoided by other employers or business partners. The Claimants plead and shall at trial rely on
a flash drive containing the video recording of the Defendant’s statement.
They averred further that the statement made by the UBA Plc via its Chairman was at the occasion of the Chairman’s speech to staff which was broadcasted to the whole world and is available online. And that the bank’s statement cannot be true in view of the fact that the nature of loans granted some of them are reserved for
performing staff. They added that in the absence of any query/caution for non-performance or for being toxic and disconnected, the above statement must have been intended only to defame the Claimants and reduce their estimation in the eyes of reasonable members of the society.
The claimants averred that when they tabled their grievances before the bank and requested consent to amicable resolution of the issues, UBA Plc refused to agree to amicable resolution of the dispute.
With all above depositions, the claimants asked the for a declaration that UBA Plc constructively and wrongfully terminated the Claimants’ employment. And that the personal loans given to them by the bank
between August and December, 2019 was unconscionable, oppressive and against all known tenets of corporate decency.
They also asked the court for an order cancelling the loans or alternatively, ordering the Defendant to apply insurance proceeds to the payment of the outstanding loans and updating the
Claimants’ terminal benefits accordingly. And payment of their salaries from the date of constructive dismissal to the date of judgment.
They also asked the court to award the sum of N2 billion in their favour against UBA Plc for breach of contract and wrongful termination of employment. And order mandating the bank to remit the 2.5% NHF deductions from their salaries to the fund or alternatively, an order mandating the UBA Plc to credit their accounts with the deductions made from their salaries as NHF contribution with interest at the rate of 25%.
They also asked the court for an order mandating the bank to provide satisfactory references when requested without reference alleged non- performance and outstanding loans.
They also asked the court to award the sum ofN10 million each and N50 million in their favour against UBA Plc as damages for defamation of character and cost of instituting the suit.
UBA Plc is yet to file any processes against the claimants’ suit and no date has been fixed for hearing of the suit.