Court Nullifies ADR Clause In UBA Staff Handbook
Posted: 09/Nov/2018

The National Industrial Court Adamawa Division has struck down an Alternative Dispute Resolution clause in the United Bank for Africa Group’s Staff Handbook which barred an ex-employee from seeking legal remedies against the bank in court until a prescribed internal dispute resolution mechanism has been exhausted.

The court, in a judgment by Justice Nelson Ogbuanya, declared that the ADR clause was unconstitutional, holding that the bank could not lawfully barred an ex-employee from litigating a dispute in a court of law.

The judge made the pronouncement in the suit filed against UBA by one Yusuf Ayangbade, who was a former Manager with the bank.

The judge held, “A close review of the Paragraph 6.7 of Exhibit A (UBA Staff Handbook) would reveal that it tends to compel the ex-employee to first return to the employer with complaints and then exhaust an uncertain procedure of Alternative Dispute Resolution within and outside the employer’s setting  before exercising his/her right to resort to court to litigate the dispute.

“I, however, take the view that a major hallmark of ADR is its voluntary posture and as a dispute resolution mechanism, an ADR clause should provide a clear and ascertainable roadmap to effective resolution of the matter between disputing parties.

“Where an ADR clause rather provides an uncertain procedure inhibiting effective dispute resolution, it has failed in its primary mission to provide alternative to litigation.

“It is, therefore, my humble but sustained view and I hold that such an uncertain and clumsy clause of ADR is certainly not an effective dispute resolution clause as envisaged by the promoters of ADR as a panacea for congested and often distasteful outcome of litigation.”

The judge described the UBA ADR clause as an instrument of doubtful efficacy, adding that it was not in tandem with best practice of labour relations “and can be akin to compelling divorced couple to return to their erstwhile matrimonial bed as a forum for resolution of alimony issue.”

Justice Ogbuanya held, “Accordingly, to insist that an ex-employee must submit to this kind of forum even fraught with an uncertain dispute resolution procedure, will unwittingly shackle the claimant’s constitutional right to gain access to court to ventilate his grievance against his ex-employer, the defendant.

“Such unwarranted restrictive provision is liable to be struck down. Accordingly, I find and hold that the provisions of Paragraph 6.7 of the UBA Group Staff Handbook Policy Document No: HRG: 001, dated June 2010, constitutes an improper obstacle in the way of the claimant, being an ex-employee of the defendant, to accessing the court to ventilate and litigate his dispute with the defendant, his ex-employer, before this court, and as such, I hereby affirm the competency of this suit and hasten to invoke the jurisdiction of the court to entertain same.”

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