The National Industrial Court of Nigeria, Lagos Judicial Division has ordered Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC Pension Fund Limited, to pay Dr I. Nwobodo and 13 others retired staff forthwith all accrued pensions calculated with effect from 1st of January, 1997 on emoluments currently earned by their serving counterparts as prescribed under the Federal Government Policy on Harmonization of Pensions and subsequently all such pensions and when due.
The presiding judge, His Lordship, Hon. Justice Elizabeth Oji directed NNPC, NNPC PENSION to comply fully with the provisions of Pension Reform Act, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria and to fully fund the pension scheme in accordance with the directives of National Pension Commission issued 21st December 2011.
The Court held that NNPC, NNPC Pension Fund are bound to observe the requirement of the Civil Service Circulars, Presidential Circulars and the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria with regards to the harmonization of pension’s policy.
The Claimants — retired staff of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation had averred that all staff of the Defendant, whether serving or retired, is in the Public Service that the NNPC Corporate Policy & Procedure Guide (CPPG), 2006 guarantees the right of all the Claimants and other retired staff of the Defendant to Pension.
The Defendants filed objection that the court lack the jurisdiction to hear the matter by virtue of Public Officer Protection Act and the NNPC Act, and further that the Claimants do not have the right to institute and maintain the suit that no letter of appointment/engagement showing that the Claimants were indeed staffers of the NNPC.
Delivering Judgment after careful perusal of the submissions of both counsel, the presiding Judge, Justice Elizabeth Oji held that the suit is not statute-barred, and further that Claimants have locus standi to institute the action.
“The Defendants argument in this case that the circulars do not apply to it is not consistent with its previous position as shown in exhibit E dated 10th of October, 2006 wherein the Defendants, writing to the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation, acknowledged the Federal government directives on the harmonisation of the pension of its pensioners and stated that it had carried out the exercise.
“Further, Exhibit B which the Defendant also relies on in its paragraph 44.1.1 provides that ‘Pension shall be calculated on the basis of the Federal Government’s stipulated percentages of terminal base salary.’ This to me, defeats Defendants argument that it is not bound by Federal Government’s Directives on the calculation of percentages of pension.
“Laws, Rules, Directives and Commitments made in employment relations are meant to be kept. To do otherwise will be to create an environment of uncertainty in the world of work. As a result of all the above, I find and hold that the 1st Defendant cannot on its own decide to pay the Claimants’ pension on the basis of “affordability and sustainability”.