Tribunal awards N259m benefits to SpringBank pensioners
From the troubled SpringBank Plc came a tiding news for its pensioners as the three man Arbitial Tribunal chaired by Chief Anthony Idigbe (SAN) awarded a sum of N259,172,459 from them \"as their pension benefits.
Other members of the tribunal that put similes on the faces of the bank\'s pensioners are the former Chief Judge Lagos High Court, Justice Fatai Adeyinka who acted as Umpire and Mr. Nelson Ogbanya, a senior lecturer of the Nigerian Law School, Lagos Campus. Idigbe is also a Fellow of Chartered Institute of Arbitration.
Mr. Adolphus Ukwueze, Mr. Divine Njoku and Mrs Eunice Anaele dragged their former employer before the tribunal for themselves and as representatives of the Retired Senior and Junior Staff of ACB, later ACB International Plc and now SpringBank Plc.
They also acted under the name Joint Action Committee (JAC) of the Retired Staff of Spring Bank Plc.
For many years, the ex-staffs have been clamouring for their pension entitlements without success despite several letters and correspondences.
The ex-workers however explored a clause in the Trust Deal, which created pension fund especially paragraph 17.
Based on this, their lawyer issued a Notice of Arbitration dated November 29 2004 and thereby declared a dispute in respect of the pension Trust Fund.
The bank responded, which led to the Idigbe led Arbitral Tribunal.
It was gathered that the panel was faced with the task of reconciling the several claims of the pensioners within the shortest possible time. There was therefore paramount need to get parties to co-operate with the tribunal so as to achieve its objectives.
The arbitration proceedings took of formally on February 28, 2005 with holding of a preliminary meeting.
According to the tribunal in its Final Award, \"It is important to mention the parties\' confirmation of the jurisdiction of the Tribunal and the adoption of the applicable rules of the proceedings. On jurisdiction, Parties conceded that the dispute in fact arose under the Trust Deed, that the Tribunal was well constituted and they had no objection with respect to any member of the Tribunal. The agreed rules of procedure adopted by the Tribunal were as follows:
* that parties file a jointly prepared and agreed unified documents to be relied on and also file un-agreed (disputed) documents separately.
* each party to the file written case statements, written statement of witnesses on oath, and exchange simultaneously.
* witnesses to be cross-examined and re-examined.
* expert witnesses were to file written opinions and be cross examined.\"
It added that: \"The above adopted procedures were of great advantage as proceedings went on smoothly without any form of distraction.
\"Accordingly, parties during the hearing call witnesses that were examined and cross examined respectively.
\"Admittedly, the arbitration proceedings, lasted for quite a while. This is attributable to the need to ensure that all pensioners were adequately accommodated and their claims considered accordingly. The need to therefore have experts\' verify as many pensioners as were yet to be verified was seen by the Tribunal. Consequently, credible experts were appointed to carry out the exercise of verification and calculation of pensioner\'s entitlements.
This was followed by newspaper publications calling upon unverified pensioners to come forward for verification. Upon conclusion of the said task, a draft report was produced by the experts on which the Tribunal called upon parties to make comments/contributions. Following parties\' comments and observations, a final report was produced in January 2007.\"
While awarding the amount, the tribunal noted that \"It is noteworthy that the major claims of the parties have been adequately dealt with in Partial Award No.5
\"Upon due consideration of the final report and having considered all issues in dispute, the Tribunal issued a Final Award on the 28th of May 2007 wherein the total sum of N259,172,459 million were held payable to the pensioners as their pension benefits, thus bringing the matter to an end.
\"One must commend the sense of maturity displayed by both parties in ensuring that this matter was peacefully resolved through arbitration. The painstaking and diligent verification exercise conducted by the Actuaries/Experts culminating in the report is also commended. Again, the diligent efforts and display of expertise by members of the Tribunal call for emulation. Having issued a Final Award, it is hoped that the matter is satisfactorily concluded and that parties relationship is restored. This indeed is a fruitful end that has not only produced a lasting solution but also serves the ultimate aim of justice\".- Guardian