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ABSENCE OF JUDGE DELAYS SUIT AGAINST UNILEVER

By NBF News
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THE absence of Justice Titilola Ojikutu-Oshode of the Lagos High Court, Ikeja on Thursday stalled the hearing of the report of settlement between Unilever Nigeria Plc and 60 of its former workers who are challenging their sack.

The court had fixed last Thursday for hearing on the settlement after both parties agreed to resolve the matter out of court.

The court registrar, who tendered apologies on behalf of the judge failed to give any reason why the court could not sit.

They, however, fixed May 26 as the new date for the hearing.

The workers had sometime last year approached the court through their lawyer, Mr. Amobi Ogudu, to declare their sack by the company as illegal and unconstitutional.

Ojikutu-Oshode had suggested on March 10 that the parties should explore means to settle the lingering matter out of court.

The court suggestion emanated from a letter dated June 7, 2010 and signed by a human resources officer with Unilever, Michael Ademolu, which was tendered before the court by the company's lawyer, Mr. O.U. Kani.

The letter, which was addressed to two of the sacked workers, Eromosele Famous and Bolarinwa Bashiru had informed them to pick up their final settlement at the company's head office in Lagos.

Kani had also assured the court that the letters of final settlement for the other affected workers would soon be sent to them.

The workers, represented by Mr. Idono Omokenu and Mrs. Amuda Jimoh, in their writ of summons had prayed the court to declare their dismissal without payment of their entitlements and benefits as wrongful termination, arbitrary and oppressive.

They had also sought for an order declaring that the conduct of Unilever Plc in inviting soldiers to torture and brutalise them was unlawful and oppressive.

They further asked the court to order the defendant to pay them N8 million jointly and severally, being the outstanding entitlements due to them as exemplary and aggravated damages 'in reparation for the unlawful acts occasioned by the defendant against them'.

The sacked workers claimed that sometime in November 2008, they joined about 60 other staff of the company to stage a peaceful rally in the Unilever's premises in pursuit of their demands for improved welfare and working condition.

They alleged that rather than listen to them, the company's management invited some heavily armed policemen to brutalise them and stopped the otherwise peaceful rally.