The National Industrial Court in Abuja has awarded N1 million damages to a former Editor of THISDAY Newspaper, Paul Ibe, in his suit against Leaders & Company Limited, publishers of THISDAY and its Chairman/Editor-in-chief, Nduka Obaigbena.
Justice Maureen Esohe, who also granted Mr. Ibe other reliefs, delivered judgement in the suit on Wednesday.
Mr. Ibe had in July 2011 slammed a N100 million suit on THISDAY and Mr. Obaigbena seeking, among other reliefs, payments of his pension, outstanding entitlements, remittance of his tax as deducted by the company and for the court to order the Economic and Financial Crime Commission, the Press Council of Nigeria and the Federal Inland Revenue Service to investigate the defendants.
He also asked the court to declare that the contract of employment between him and the defendants was breached and that he was short paid while serving as Editor, Nation’s Capital, of the newspaper.
Mr. Ibe, who joined THISDAY in 1996 as a reporter, moved to South Africa in 1998, spending 19 months there as the Bureau Chief of the Newspaper in that country.
He claimed the condition of service, including non provision of accommodation, while serving the company in South Africa was unlawful. The claim was so upheld by the court in the ruling.
In a counter claim, the defendants had accused Mr. Ibe of using the company’s official vehicle since October 13, 2010, and charged him N10,000 daily. The court dismissed the claim.
In her ruling, Ms Esohe held that the defendants breached the contract of employment with the claimant, Mr. Ibe, including dismissal without compensation, and that the procedures for declaring his office redundant was unlawful.
The court awarded Mr. Ibe N1 million damages and ordered that his pension and outstanding arrears be paid by the defendants.
The court held that the deducted monies from the claimant’s emoluments should be duly remitted to the Federal Inland Revenue Service.
Also, the defendants’ reliefs, seeking N200million compensation and apology in two national newspapers for alleged malicious publication in two online news outfits by the claimant, were also dismissed.
In his reaction after the ruling, counsel to the plaintiff, Noble Ifeme, said, “It is not just victory for the claimant but all employees. It is also a message to slave drivers that the time of slave trade is over. In our humble opinion, we are satisfied because substantially most of our reliefs were granted.”
He added, “We intend to enforce the judgement in the event the defendants fails to comply with the order of the court.”
Also speaking, the visibly elated Mr. Ibe said the court was there for those who are ready to submit themselves to rigorous process in the course of seeking justice.
“If the train of the court is not derailed, you will finally get to your destination. We went to court not because of the dollar, naira or rand component of this case. We went to court because of the principles that were involved. A labourer deserves his pay,” he said.
He said it is unfortunate that employers of labour, particularly media publishers and Mr. Obaigbena will refuse to pay their employees.