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Union Seeks Court Order for Release of Accrued Benefits of 35 Deceased Members

A workers union known as the Joint Action Committee (JAC) on Wednesday asked the National Industrial Court in Lagos to order the payment of N10 million each to families of 35 deceased staff of the defunct African Continental Bank (ACB), being their accrued pension benefits for 20 years.

The claimants are: Adolphus Ukwueze, Divine Njoku and Mrs Eunice Anaele, who are suing under the name and style of JAC, as representatives of widows, children, and beneficiaries of 35 deceased staff of the bank.

Joined as sole defendant in the suit is Heritage Bank of Nigeria Plc, which is the defunct ACB.

In their suit marked NICN/LA/321/2018, the claimants are seeking a court order for the defendant to pay a lump sum of N10million each to the families of the deceased, as well as 21 per cent interest from March 14, 1997, until total liquidation.

They also seek the payment of compensation and general damages in the sum of N10, 000 to the family of each deceased staff of the bank, for the trauma, stress, hardship, loss of education and shelter, caused them.

When the case was called on Wednesday, Mrs Grace Fasoto, announced appearance for the claimants, while Mr Taiye Shittu, appeared for the defendant.

Fasoto then informed the court that the suit was slated for trial, adding that her witness was in court and ready to proceed.

In response, the defence counsel told the court that unfortunately, he was not prepared to proceed, as he had a motion to regularise his processes and had paid the default fees.

Besides, he added that he was yet to serve claimant with his statement of defence, with the necessary annexures.

The Claimant’s counsel, however, opposed the assertion of the defence, but added that where the court was inclined to granting an adjournment, then she would be asking for a cost of N150, 000 since her witness had to travel from Owerri to Lagos in respect of the case.

In a short ruling, Justice P. A. Bassey adjourned the case until Feb. 6 for hearing, and awarded a cost of N50, 000 against the defence, which he ordered to be paid before the next date.

In their statement of claims, the claimants averred that the 35 deceased employees of the defunct ACB worked for the bank from 1977 to 1997.

According to the claimants, their employment was, however, terminated by a rationalisation exercise at the bank in 1997, which was communicated to the deceased by a letter dated March 14, 1997.

They averred that the defendant in its letter, had informed the deceased that their one month salary in lieu of notice, as well as other terminal benefits and life assurance, would be paid to them by the end of March 1997.

The claimant averred that the said salaries, benefits, life assurance and pension, were never paid to the claimants till date.

According to them, the deceased all died at various times in their struggle to get these benefits.

The claimants, further averred that the matter was initially referred to Arbitration for Alternative Dispute Resolution, in case No. ACB TRUST/ ARB/01/05, adding the tribunal had issued an award of the sum of N259.2 million as pension severance benefits in favour of the claimants.

They said that this award was never paid till date, in spite of several demand letters.

As representatives of the retired senior and junior staff of the defunct bank, and also as representatives of the widows, children and beneficiaries of the 35 deceased, the claimants are therefore, seeking a court order, for the sum of N10,000 million to be paid to the families of each of the deceased.

They also want an order, directing the assessed sums, to be paid to their lawyer’s firm, who shall disburse same to the beneficiaries in conjunction with the claimants.

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