Unlawful termination of employment; MTN’s witness non appearance at the National Industrial Court stalls proceedings
konknaijaboy | On 27, Jan 2016
MTN Nigeria today January 27, 2016 was unable to open its defense on the case of unlawful termination of employment & trade restriction of the 63 staff The case sitting at the National Industrial Court, Lugard Avenue, Ikoyi, Lagos.(Suit No: NICN/LA/596/2013) before the Hon. Jusice Lifu.
This was due to the absence of MTN’s only witness that was scheduled for cross examination.
Defence counsel A.O Olomojobi (Aluko and Oyebode) claimed witness was scheduled for a brief meeting last monday at the chambers but never showed up. He also stated that MTN’s Legal department had series of correspondence concerning the witness alongside the Human Resources Department with his law firm. However, after few phone conversations witness informed she will be available in court for cross examination. “When I got to the court today I still put a call through to witness only for her to apologize that she will not be present in court due to pending official assignment. I immediately called the attention of my learned colleague on the development and apologized”.
In his reaction; lawyer representing the 63 ex staff Barr. A. Adedoyin-Adeniyi (AAA Chambers) informed the court he was notified witness will not be available few minutes before court proceedings. He also stated defense counsel approached him and apologized. Barr. Adedoyin-Adeniyi later plead the court for a penalty of N150,000 on MTN Nigeria for wasting everyone’s time including that of the court. He claimed the case commenced 2013 and had dragged for long as MTN Nigeria had never produced any of its staff in court, rejected out-of-court settlement and defense counsel on few occasions will not be available thereby trying to frustrate and delay justice.
In a court ruling made June 2, 2014 by the President of the National Industrial Court; Justice Adejumo (OFR) dismissed the preliminary objection filed by MTN Nigeria challenging the 63 Customer Relations staff unlawfully laid off in 2009 to file the suit in a representative capacity.
Between October – November 2015 three witnesses from claimants who appeared in representative capacity were cross examined by defense counsel with necessary documentary evidence also made available in court.
The Hon Justice Lifu later adjourned till February 25, 2016. He advised that witness be made available in court on February 25, 2016 for the sake of justice to enable the defence open and close its case owing to the predicament as informed by defence counsel.
The defense counsel apologized for the inconvenience and notified the court that witness will be available on adjourned date.
Four years ago on November 17, 2009 some employees from the Customer Relations Department were sent packing without notice or reason for termination of employment stated on their letters.
The lay-off of 63 Customer Relations Staff was described to have been carried out without notice, reason and contrary to the organisation’s HR Policies, Processes & Procedures.
Most of these employees had spent minimum five years in the system and had risen through the ranks. It was also recalled that about 60% of the said staff were promoted to various levels and positions just two months before the lay-off.
June 2012 saw the first phase of saga between MTN Nigeria and the 63 ex staff when both parties were summoned by the Committee on Public Petition (NASS) Abuja, Nigeria after a Petition by their then legal counsel. On January 17, 2013 the Committee through its official gazatte; Article No 11 condemned the way and manner the lay off was carried out and ordered MTN to review and resolve the matter immediately.
However, the resolution by the committee was not taken without months of deliberation and public hearing by both parties. The matter was also read on the floor of the house by the committee for submission after months of thorough investigation.
MTN Nigeria is a leading telecommunication service provider with HQ in South Africa.