Industrial court orders Kaduna refinery to pay ex-staff pension arrears
By Benjamin Omoike
The National Industrial Court has ordered Kaduna Refining Petrochemical Company (KRPC), Limited to immediately pay its former staff, Zakari Abdullahi, his pension entitlement from September 16, 1996, till date.
Justice Sinmisola Adeniyi, while delivering the judgment, also held that the order is to be complied with within 30 days.
The Court, in addition, held that the claimant, having served the defendant for 11 years, and having terminated his appointment on the ground of services no longer required in 1996, was entitled to terminal benefits.
The court further declared that the withholding of the claimant’s pension was unconstitutional, unlawful and against public policy.
From facts, the claimant, Abdullahi had contended that by the provisions of the NNPC Staff Condition of Service, which governed his appointment with the defendant, he was qualified for the payment of pension, having served the organisation for 11 years.
The claimant also submitted that because his gratuity had been paid, there was no reason to withhold his pension, but all efforts to get it over the years had proved abortive.
In its defence, KRPC argued that the claimant was not in the category of staff that qualified for retirement benefits, as his appointment was terminated for gross misconduct.
The defendant through its counsel, O.J. Opawale, also contended that proper parties were not before the court, as the defendant is a separate and distinct legal entity from the NNPC.
Opawale, in addition, averred that the Condition of Service which was the substratum of the claimant’s case, was not binding on the defendant.
In opposition, the claimant counsel, A.A Manta, maintained that the provisions of the NNPC Staff Condition of Service governed his client’s appointment with the defendant and urged the court to grant the reliefs sought.
The court on its part, after evaluation of both counsel’s submissions, held that NNPC Condition of Service was binding on the parties.
Adeniyi also dismissed the argument that the claimant’s appointment was terminated on grounds of alleged misconduct but on “services no longer required”, as stated in the termination letter.
“My view is that the act of withholding the claimant’s pension for over two decades, 26 years to be precise, is not only unlawful but morally wrong and callous.
“The flagrant violation of the claimant’s constitutional right by the defendant shall not be condoned by this court.
“It will therefore be unreasonably excessive for the defendant, having terminated the claimant’s appointment on the grounds of services no longer required.
“Having admitted his gratuity was paid, to now turn to contend that the claimant is not entitled to pension for alleged acts of misconduct,” the judge ruled.