By Lukman Olabiyi, Lagos
An IT expert, Pastor Anthony Afuye-Cyrus, has asked the National Industrial Court, Lagos to order Veritas Registrars Ltd and two others to pay him N734 million following an employment-related dispute.
The sum comprises severance benefits and end-of-service entitlements of N534 million and general damages of N200 million.
Afuye-Cyrus made the claim in suit NINC/LA/446/2022 filed by his counsel Oludolapo Animashaun of Funmi Falana Chambers before Justice Ikechi Nweneka.
Veritas Registrars Mr Jim Ovia and Mr Ugo Okonkwo are 1st, 2nd and 3rd defendants and filed their defence through their counsel Peace Adeleye of Kenna Partners.
The defendants denied being indebted to the claimant and countersued for N140 million as general damages and cost of the suit.
The claimant averred in his statement of claim that he was an employee of Veritas formerly known as Zenith Registrars Ltd, where he worked as the System Administrator III from 2009-2014 and Head, Information Technology Department from 2014 to August 2019.
Afuye-Cyrus alleged that in course of his job, he discovered a plethora of manipulation of client companies’ rights issues and public offers belonging to corporate bodies and individuals running into billions of naira by some top management staff of the 1st defendant which they allotted to institutions, estate and individuals without informing them and converted same to personal use.
He alleged that “by escalating the monumental fraud he detected, he was treading on some powerful toes and putting his life, that of his family and his thriving career on the line as he was constantly harassed, threatened, victimized by the Defendants.”
He further claimed that he was also “denied promotion, training and refused staff support he specifically requested through the appraisals submitted every year and the Defendants did nothing about it.
“Owing to the constant harassment, threat, intimidation and mental torture meted out on the Claimant by the Defendants, the Claimant was compelled to resign from his appointment with the 1st Defendant in August 2019 at the age of 41 as against the retirement age of 60.”
The claimant said he reported the fraud to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) via a January 19, 2020 letter.
Apart from the N734m, the claimant is seeking four other reliefs including a declaration that the harassment and mental torture led to his “pre-mature resignation in 2019 at the age of 41” rather than 60.
“A declaration that the harassment, threat to life and intimidation by the 3rd Defendant on the Claimant at Four Point Hotel, Victoria Island on the 15th of December, 2019 led to the immediate relocation of the Claimant and his family from Nigeria amidst heavy financial conditions.
“An order of perpetual injunction restraining the Defendants, from further harassing, threatening and intimidating the Claimant.”
When the matter came up before Justice Nweneka, the defendants’ counsel Miss Adeleye challenged the court’s jurisdiction to hear the suit, adding that it was baseless, as the defendants were not indebted to the claimant and that they were being unlawfully harassed and embarrassed.
Adeleye prayed the court to strike out the names of the 2nd and 3rd defendants from the suit, arguing that the suit was intended to embarrass them.
She added that the claimant sued the 2nd and 3rd defendants “who are not necessary parties to the suit.
“His claims are against the 1st defendant, not second and 3rd defendants. The claims are frivolous, speculative and lacking in substance,” Adeleye added.
But Animashaun opposed her via a January 17, 2023 counter affidavit and a written address in support.
“We urge the court to discountenance the defendants’ application. It is baseless and lacking in merit,” she said.
Animashaun further argued that “once there’s a cause of action, the defendant becomes a necessary party.”
She added, “We have no personal issues with the 2nd and 3rd defendant. They are part of the first defendant whom the claimant related with, in the course of his employment.”
Justice Nweneka adjourned till May 4 for ruling.