MTN in N700m Suite for sack of employee


Telecommunications giant, MTN Communications Limited has been sued for N700 million by its former employee, Mr. Kingsley Onyekachi Iwuagwu, for wrongful dismissal. The telecommunication giant is currently battling to save its face at High Court 4, Asaba, Delta State, where Justice K.O Okpu is currently presiding over the case.

Though hearing was expected to continue on Wednesday, July 14, but the absence of the defense counsel, Barr Kent Egbedi stalled hearing on the matter, just as the Justice Okpu was notified that Egbedi could not come because he had gone to honour an invitation extended to him by the Chief Judge of Delta State. The matter was however adjourned to Friday, 30 th July for hearing.

Iwuagwu had in 2009, dragged MTN to the court claiming N700 million as damages for wrongful dismissal and unlawful termination of his employment with the company cum breach of contract on March 20, 2009. 

When the case was heard recently, Justice Okpu awarded a N48,000 cost as penalty against MTN  for late filing of its memorandum of appearance within a statutory period.

In his ruling, Justice Okpu noted that the N48,000 cost had accrued from N100 penalty per day since October, 20, 2009 when the statutory period for filing their memorandum of appearance expired.

Justice Okpu ordered MTN to pay half of the amount to the claimant and the other half to the court, which means that the amount would be shared between the court and the claimant at N24,000 each.

The ruling came shortly after the defense counsel, Barrister Kent Egbedi had filed two applications for extension of time within which to file their memorandum of appearance and statement of defence which the court granted before adjourning further hearing to July 14.

Counsel to the plaintiff, Barrister Barnabas Iwuala said he would not oppose the application for extension of time because what is important is for the case to move on.     

The plaintiff, Iwuagwu in a statement of claims filed on his behalf by his legal counsel, Professor J. I. J. Otuka, in suit A/273/09 is also asking the court to declare that the termination of his employment and/or his dismissal by the defendant by virtue of a termination letter dated March 19, 2009 which took effect from March 20, 2009 is wrongful and a serious breach of the terms of the letter of offer of employment dated June 28, 2004.  

The plaintiff further averred that his summary dismissal by the defendant without prior 30 days written notice, as contained in the letter of offer of employment dated June 28, 2004, is a breach of contract, adding that the defendant in its termination letter never gave any reason(s) for such summary dismissal.

Speaking with the counsel to the plaintiff on the delay tactics adopted by the mobile telecommunication company and its counsel, Barr Barrister Barnabas Iwuala said that though it is the right of the defense counsel to ask for an adjournment in cases where the hearing dates seems not to be convenient to the counsel, it should not be used as a way to truncate justice as things like this constitute the delay in justice dispensation.

He also noted hopefully that when the counsel exhausts the five opportunity given him to demand adjournments, he would be compelled to come to court and hear the matter.            

Joe Chukwudi