Sets aside indefinite suspension…
Gabriel Mahanan Ajane graduated from University of Jos in 2000 with a degree in Business Management. He was looking forward to a dream job after youth service.
Five years later, on July 13th, 2005, he was employed by Zenith Bank Plc as an executive assistant. It seemed like everything Gabriel dreamed about was coming through. “Gabriel threw his whole life into Zenith Bank, like it was his father’s business,” according to a friend and former colleague of Gabriel.
He worked for Zenith Bank as a marketer and rose to the position of Assistant Manager in the Garki, Abuja branch. From an annual salary of about N1.500,000, Gabriel was now earning about N8,000,000. Life was good.
The good life ended almost five years to the day Gabriel started work at Zenith Bank. On 19th July, 2010, Gabriel was suspended indefinitely without pay for suspicion of fraud. The suspension was supposed to last until the investigation into the fraud was concluded. A once bright shining life had shattered.
On April 15th, 2010, Gabriel had been given a query with subject: Unusual Lodgements into Staff Account. He answered the query.
April 21st, 2010, the matter took a new dimension as Gabriel was taken to Zone 7 Command of the Nigeria Police Force by Zenith Bank Regional Auditor. He was detained for four days and was released after he made bail. His two cars were impounded and left in Police custody for more than a year.
On May 12th, 2010, Gabriel appeared before a disciplinary committee set up by Zenith Bank to investigate “allegations of orchestrated fraud perpetrated on the account of Aso Savings and Loans Plc account no: 6013415939 domiciled at the Garki branch.”
In 2013, after waiting for the outcome of the investigation for three years and while still on suspension, Gabriel sued Zenith Bank Plc at the National Industrial Court of Nigeria.
Zenith Bank did not disclose to Gabriel or any of his colleagues who were accused and punished for a crime of fraud the outcome of the investigations.
After initially commencing on Nov. 12th, 2013 before Justice Shogbola, the matter commenced “denovo” before Justice E.D.E. Isele on Nov. 5th, 2015.
Gabriel Ajana, through his lawyer, Gerald Nwaneri Esq made 25 claims against Zenith Bank Plc, which included various sums of money.
Zenith Bank through their lawyers, Dr. Soni Ajala and Dolapo Olajide posited that Gabriel’s services were no longer required by the bank hence the termination letter of February 11th, 2013.
Gabriel claimed he did not get any letter of termination. He also claimed that he left his ‘phone on’ as instructed by the bank for these years. No call came from Zenith Bank.
Zenith Bank denied ‘handing Gabriel over to the Police’ but said it reported the matter of the seven billion naira fraud to the Police. The bank claimed that Gabriel and other staff had “questionable affinity and traceable transactional trail with Leonard Iduweh Okoh.”
Leonard Okoh was the account officer of the Aso Savings and Loans account at Zenith Bank, Garki branch. He is the prime suspect of the seven billion naira fraud. He has not been seen since 2010. He was a senior colleague to Gabriel Ajana.
Zenith Bank insists that the investigation of the fraud is not yet concluded as Leonard Okoh has not been seen.
After arguing facts and points of law, the presiding judge, Justice E.D.E. Isele on the 12th of April, 2019 decided that Zenith Bank Plc was wrong to have terminated Gabriel Ajana.
The Judge held that “the manner of terminating claimant’s employment by the defendant with it was wrongful and done without recourse to basic laws governing labour relations.”
Justice Isele further held that “the claims of claimant should succeed in the main, to an extent. And having so held, I hereby set aside the said indefinite suspension of the claimant…”
The Judge dismissed the counter claims of Zenith Bank Plc.
A friend and former colleague of Gabriel Ajane who spoke to this magazine after the judgment said, “this young man has suffered since Zenith Bank suspended him in 2010. The guy has not been working and on top of that he lost his 3 year old son and sister-in-law in that air force plane crash in Kaduna a few years after this whole thing started.”
Zenith Bank has given notice of appeal and asked for stay of execution.