Court Dismisses N24 Million Retirement Claim Against Total Nig

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Hon. Justice Polycarp Hamman of the Port Harcourt Judicial Division of the National Industrial Court has dismissed the N24m retirement benefit claim filed by one Mercy Etim against Total E&P Nig Ltd for lack of proof.

Justice Polyarp ruled that Mercy Etim failed to establish her claims before the court, that the cases before courts of law are not decided based on sympathy or sentiments no matter the compelling circumstances, but based on concrete and verifiable facts and evidence.

From facts, the claimant- Mercy Etim had averred that she worked as a staff of the defendant’s French School from 21st December 1979 to 21st December 2007 when she retired and her Headmaster gave her N1,000,000.00 cash and told her to go to the Defendant’s office to collect her full retirement benefits.

Mercy added that she was offered a part payment of N2,089,761.34 (Two Million, Eighty-Nine Thousand, Seven Hundred and Sixty-One Naira, Thirty-Four Kobo) on the 10th of August, 2018, leaving a balance of N24,910,238.66 (Twenty Four Million, Nine Hundred and Ten Thousand, Two Hundred and Thirty-Eight Naira, Sixty Six Kobo) and all effort to get her alleged entitlement proved abortive.

In defense, the defendant- Total E&P Nig Ltd averred that Mercy Etim was not and has never been an employee/staff of the company, but she was a nanny in the defunct Elf-Michelin French School, and considering her age, the company decided to make an ex-gratia payment to her in recognition of her services, that the sum of N2,089,761.34 (Two Million, Eighty-Nine Thousand, Seven Hundred and sixty-One Naira, Thirty-Four Kobo) only was paid to her as ex-gratia payment, and she then signed an indemnity waiving any right to and all claims, demands or rights of action against the defendant for payment of any sum whatsoever and howsoever. 

The company urged the court to dismiss the suit with substantial cost for being frivolous, vexatious and lacking merit. 

In opposition, the learned counsel to Mercy submitted that the challenges experienced by his client caused her to execute the indemnity to keep her soul and body together so as to be able to protest her unpaid entitlement, and that cannot amount to a waiver of her right to receive her full benefits. 

After careful evaluation of the submissions of both parties, the presiding Judge, Justice Polycarp Hamman held that Mercy Etim’s claims before the court are in the realm of special damages which the law expects her to specially plead and strictly prove same.

Justice Polycarp held that Mercy Etim failed to prove that her retirement benefit is calculated at N1,000,000.00 (One Million Naira) per year multiplied by the number of years served, as there is nothing before the court to show how she arrived at the amount she is claiming in the suit. 

“She did not tender any Condition of Service to show what is provided as retirement benefits. Even her contention that the retirement benefit in the defendant is calculated at N1,000.000.00 per year multiplied by the years of service cannot be logical and reasonable.

“This contention is unconscionable and cannot be believed by any court unless that is what is specifically provided for in the defendant’s conditions of service. It is, therefore, manifest that the claimant has not proved her case as required by law. I so find and hold.

“I must admit that while I sympathise with the Claimant, it is unfortunate that there is nothing this court can do considering her claims before the court. Cases before courts of law are not decided based on sympathy or sentiments no matter the compelling circumstances but based on concrete and verifiable facts and evidence. Unfortunately, there is no ‘milk of human kindness’ to give the claimant considering her reliefs before the court.” Justice Polycarp ruled.

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