LAGOS, DECEMBER 2, 2016 – The Lagos Division of the National Industrial Court has ordered MTN Nigeria Communications to pay full four years post-disengagement salaries to 63 workers, who were laid off by the company in 2009.
The court presided over by Justice P.O. Lifu orderd MTN to pay judgment credit sum within 30 days from October 26, 2016 when the judgment was delivered, failing which the judgment credit would attract an annual interest of 10 per cent. The court also awarded additional N10,000 against MTN in favour of each of the 63 workers to cover the cost of filing the suit numbered NICN/LA/596/2013.
The claimants in the suit are Harrison Ossai, Gabriel Ameh and Stephen Mahaja, who sued on behalf of themselves and 60 other workers laid off by MTN with the condition that they must never work with any other telecommunication company for four years after their disengagement. The claimants had, in their suit, claimed to have been subjected to financial hardship on account of the restraint of trade imposed on them by MTN.
Ossai, in his testimony before the court, said the trade restraint imposed by MTN bungled his chances of being employed by Globacom and Airtel, which were other telecommunication companies, adding that after being sacked by MTN, he was jobless for six years. Like other claimants, he urged the court to order MTN to pay him N10m and another N20m for filing the suit.
In his judgment, Justice Lifu said he was “satisfied that the claimants had proved their claims before the court as to the oppressive and unreasonableness of the restraint of trade covenant for four years for making and leaving the claimants hard and dry for four years.”
The judge held, “Terminating the employment of the claimants and at the same time restricting them from seeking any employment from the sector generally and preventing them to be acting as agents or adviser or to engage in any other concern directly or indirectly for four years is clearly unreasonable in the light of global economic challenges occasioned by recession, which has resulted in mass unemployment.”
The judge ruled that each of the workers was entitled to be paid his last gross salary for four years after being sacked and ordered MTN to pay with an additional N10,000 each as cost.