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  • 2000-11-27
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Jirgbagh v. U.B.N. Plc

LAWRENCE JIRGBAGH

V

UNION BANK OF NIGERIA PLC

COURT OF APPEAL

( JOS DIVISION )

JUSTIN THOMPSON AKPABIO, JCA ( Presided )

JOSEPH JEREMIAH UMOREN, JCA

C. M. CHUKWUMA-ENEH, JCA ( Read the Lead Judgment )

CA/J/140/99

WEDNESDAY, 13TH JULY, 2000.

APPEAL - Findings of fact - Non interference with by Court of Appeal

INTERPRETATION OF STATUTES - Words used in a document - Need to give ordinary meaning thereto when clear and unambiguous

LABOUR LAW - Master and servant - Discipline of servant - Need for employer to comply with contract of service

LABOUR LAW - Master and servant - Dismissal of employee - Right of employer to expressly dismiss employee who admits the criminality of his misconduct

LABOUR LAW - Master and servant - Dismissal of employee - Whether employee bound to subject an alleged misconduct not bothering on crime to trial in  a regular court before dismissing employee

LABOUR LAW - Master and servant  - Dismissal of employee - Whether rule of natural justice requires employer to conduct oral hearing for employee before his service is dispensed with

LABOUR LAW - Master and servant  - Employment with “statutory flavour” -  Attitude of court thereto

LABOUR LAW - Master and servant - Gross misconduct of employee - Test for determining the criminality thereof - How aggrieved employee can bring suit within the precincts of the rule in Garba vs. University of Maiduguri

LABOUR LAW - Master and servant - Summary dismissal of employee Employer not bound to follow proper procedure for dismissal to be valid - Exceptions thereto

LABOUR LAW - Master and servant - Summary dismissal of employee Gross misconduct approximating criminal offence forming basis of -  Need for employer to observe fair hearing when recourse not made to regular court

LABOUR LAW - Master and servant - Summary dismissal of employee Notice of - Good ground in law to be shown when sufficient notice given

LABOUR LAW - Master and servant - Summary dismissal of employee Whether employer bound to follow a particular procedure - Effect of breach of fundamental term of contract of service

LABOUR LAW - Master and servant - Termination of employment - Need for termination to conform with the contract of service as well as work rules

LABOUR LAW - Master and servant - Termination of employment - Remedy available to employee when termination breaches contract of service -  Whether employee can treat employment as subsisting and pursue accruable profit

LABOUR LAW - Master and servant - Termination of employment - When court can enquire into basis of

LABOUR LAW -  Master and servant - Termination of employment - Whether court can reinstate employee or order specific performance

NOTABLE PRONOUNCEMENT - Need for banks to be cautious on staffing to check embarrassment caused by incessant bank fraud

WORDS AND PHRASES - ‘Statutory flavour’ - Meaning of

WORDS AND PHRASES - ‘Include’ - Effect of when used in a document

Issues:

  1. Whether upon a true and dispassionate construction of Article 4(iv) of Exhibit “I” the dismissal of the appellant by the respondent is lawful.
  2. Whether High Court was right in dismissing the appellant’s claims.

Facts:

The appellant, as plaintiff, claimed the following reliefs before the Vandeikya High Court in Benue State:

  1. A declaration that both the suspension of the plaintiff on 5th September, 1996 and purported dismissal from the services of the defendant is illegal, null and void and of no effect whatsoever.
  2. A declaration that plaintiff is still in the services of the defendant and thus entitled to his salary and other entitlement the staff of the defendant of the rank of the plaintiff.
  3. (i) The plaintiff claims the sum of N56,019.93 as special damages, being the plaintiff’s salary, housing, transport, utility, launch on voucher allowances from May, 1997 to May, 1998.
    1. Half salary and other allowances not yet paid to the plaintiff by the defendant - N5,273.25.
    2. All financial and other entitlements due to the plaintiff from May, 1997 till date of judgment.
    3. N50,000.00 general damages for inconveniences caused the plaintiff.  Interim grand total N106,019.93. The facts giving rise to the claim were that appellant who was employed as a co-note-counter staff with one Daniel Adejoh, on 6/5/97 had the duty  to cross check entries in the teller with actual amount paid into the defendant’s bank.

On 14/6/96, at the respondent’s office, the appellant was queried as shown in exhibit C and later suspended by exhibit E on the reason that instead of N221,000.00, a total of N216,000.00 breakdown was reflected in the teller of a physical cash brought in by a customer on 24/5/96.  The sum of N221,000.00 was supposed to have been received by the appellant and Adejoh.  Upon a thorough search for the shortage of N5,000.00, a bundle of N5,000.00 in N50 currency denomination was discovered in the drawer used by the appellant and Adejoh in counting the money.

On 6/5/97, the appellant was summarily dismissed by Exh.  “G” for gross misconduct and he has brought this action against his employer challenging his wrongful dismissal.  The claim was dismissed, hence, the appeal to the Court of Appeal.