Nigeria: Wrongful Dismissal – Court Orders Airtel to Pay N160 Million to Former Employee


“It is contrary to international best practice as well as international labor standards to dismiss high performing staff without just cause,” the judge said.

The National Labor Court in Lagos has ordered telecommunications giant, Airtel, to pay around N160 million to Abdul-Hakeem Olasewere, an employee wrongfully dismissed by the company on Christmas Eve 2013.

Judge JD Peters, in his judgment on April 7, said Airtel’s dismissal of Mr Olasewere is “wrongful and without any justification”.

He frowned at the company’s decision not to provide a reason for throwing his former employee into the workforce during a festive period.

“It is contrary to international best practice as well as international labor standards to dismiss high performing staff without just cause,” the judge said.

“Globally, voluntary dismissal without cause is no longer fashionable or acceptable.

“We must bear in mind that no nation can be an island unto itself and any nation that seeks to do so will do so at its peril.

“Therefore, the need to ensure that Nigerian labor jurisprudence is in tandem with what is available internationally has been reflected in the National Labor Court Act 2006.”

The suit

According to Mr. Olasewere, Airtel hired him in 2008. After a series of promotions, he rose to the position of vice president, operations and support.

He said he has consistently ranked among Airtel’s top human resources managers and is only a step away from managing director in the management organization chart. To his surprise, however, he said he received an internal communication in November 2013 informing him that he had been removed from his position as vice president of operations and support and that he had been appointed vice president. chairman of site optimization special projects.

According to him, the new role was a reduction in responsibilities, as he was not responsible to any managing director or any external human capital, but reporting only to the managing director.

Mr. Olasewere said that on November 11, 2013, the company’s CTO and HR manager called him to a meeting where they told him that some Integrated Site Maintenance (ISM) vendors had sent petitions against him and the evidence was overwhelming. They further told him that he had to stand down for three to four days for a proper investigation to be carried out.

Mr Olasewere said they had not communicated with him after ten days and he wrote to request a meeting to disclose the allegations against him. He said the company informed him that there was at least one petition bordering on wrongful dismissal and another allegation of inappropriate conduct befitting someone in his position.

Mr Olasewere said they called him to another meeting on December 12, 2013, with the managing director, chief operating officer, chief financial officer, SCM director and Jubril Saba from the human resources department. He said he again asked for disclosure of the allegations against him, but they again refused.

On December 24, 2013, Mr. Olasewere said the company terminated his employment without notice.

According to him, “the dismissal was accentuated by malice, premeditation and a deliberate attempt and scheming by Mr. Segun Ogunsanya (the CEO) to oust any likely successor to the position of CEO in the event of the imminent expiration of his contract. of work.”

Mr Olasewere sought a declaration that the termination of his employment is unfair and an order to pay N1.3 billion as special damages.

He also sought an order for the payment of N100 million as general damages for breach of employment contract and disciplinary policy and procedure, among others.


In its defence, Airtel said it had no contractual obligation to state the reason, cause or basis for its employee’s dismissal.

The company also argued that Mr. Olasewere’s reassignment to a new position did not constitute demotion, victimization or disciplinary action.

She added that in the unlikely event that the court found that Mr. Olasewere’s employment had been wrongfully terminated, the only remedy available to him was an award of salary for the period of notice he had already been paid. . He noted that the former employee had to repay 4.9 million naira, the unpaid sum after the remuneration owed to him was deducted from a car loan of 13.2 million naira.

The jugement

In his judgment, Mr Peters noted that Airtel management failed to give Mr Olasewere a fair hearing before he was sacked.

“This court has found that the termination of plaintiff’s employment was wrongful,” the judge said.

“Not only is the dismissal wrongful, but the conduct of the Respondent as exemplified or represented by its CEO, Mr. Segun Ogunsanya, is despicable and a stain on the Respondent’s image for allowing personal ambition and to the personal interest to eclipse the whole, the interest of the whole of the moral person.

“From the pleadings and evidence presented by the parties, I also see some elements of fraudulent activity covered by those who wanted the plaintiff to get the defendant out of the way. Whether fraud or corruption , it amounts to one and the same thing.”

The judge also blasted Airtel for doing everything possible to thwart the subpoena issued to its CEO, Mr Olusanya.

“The only plausible inference available to the court is that the defendant was afraid of the testimony of Mr. Segun Ogunsanya, as it would have worked against him if he had been allowed to be heard.

“As a result, I consider the Claimant’s evidence on the allegations of malice leading to the termination of his employment to remain intact, uncontested and undisputed.”

The judge awarded Airtel 100 million naira in exemplary damages. It also awarded Mr Olasewere his two-year salary amounting to N60 million as general damages for wrongful dismissal without cause.

He further granted and ordered Airtel to pay the former employee N1 million as the cost of the litigation.

He however ordered the claimant to pay 4.9 million naira which is the outstanding balance of his loan for the purchase of a vehicle.

“All sums of money due and payable under this judgment to both the Plaintiff and the Counter-Plaintiff will be paid with interest at the rate of 20% per annum from the date of this judgment until the liquidation final,” he added.


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