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Legality Or Otherwise Of Setting Banking Targets For The Continuance Of An Employment: AN EVALUATION OF THE DECISION IN MISS CHINONYE AMANZE V UNION BANK OF NIGERIA – Financial Services


It is common practice among Nigerian banks to set up bank
deposit targets for their employees and make these targets the
basis for their performance appraisal. Failure to meet up these
targets could lead to the loss of some benefits being enjoyed as an
employee of the bank or in a worst-case scenario, the termination
of their employment. This practice has received widespread
criticism following the effects and pressure on the employees to
meet up these targets as some bank employees have had to resort to
compromising methods. One of the most recent criticisms was seen in
the decision of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria
(“NICN”) in the matter between Miss Chinonye Amanze and
Union Bank of Nigeria1 where
the court described it as “unfair labour practice”. In
this article, we shall take a cursory look at the decision of the
court in this matter in line with the rules governing the
contractual obligations between an employer and an employee.

ANALYSIS OF THE DECISION IN MISS CHINONYE AMANZE V UNION BANK
OF NIGERIA

Miss Chinonye Amanze (“the Claimant”) was employed by
Union Bank of Nigeria (“the Defendant”) as a Relationship
Manager sometime in 2014. According to the defendant, the
employment of the claimant was contingent upon satisfactory
performance and meeting 100% of the set target. They also contended
that this set target was based on a representation made by the
claimant that she was in a position to achieve a minimum average
monthly deposit from target customers in the sum of N600,000,000.00
(Six Hundred Million Naira only) and $250,000.00 (Two Hundred and
Fifty Thousand Dollars). In addition to the monetary deposit, the
claimant was expected to deliver to the defendant eight (8)
specific customers and a commitment form was signed to this effect.
Following the failure of the claimant to achieve these targets as
set by the defendant, her employment was terminated.

In delivering his judgment, the Hon. Justice (Dr.) I. J. Essien
stated that “the practice where banks including
the defendant impose deposit attraction limit on employees as a
basis for the employees to continue in the employment is an
anachronistic and slavish labour practice which run contrary to the
tenets of best labour practices .. the practice where an employee
is given deposit target by a bank or any other financial
institution as a condition for his continuing in the employment by
banks and other organization is an unfair labour practice and must
be struck down. That practice is hereby outlawed. The defendant and
indeed any financial institution in Nigeria cannot and must not
impose any deposit attraction limit on any employee as a condition
for continuing in the employment.”
He went
further to state that “…it is a dangerous
practice which violates the common law principle of duty to provide
work by the employer … It has never been the duty of the employee
to go looking for work to sustain the business of the employer
except where the employee in such circumstances receives a
commission by an agreement for that extra
effort.”

The holistic effect of the above decision is that the setting of
deposit targets by banks and other financial institutions as a
basis for sustaining the employment of an employee is an unfair
labour practice that has no basis under the law and should,
therefore, be discontinued. Such contractual terms are to the
extent of their inconsistency with best labour practices illegal.
Again, the court noted that the duty to provide work is the
responsibility of the employer and should not be passed on to the
employee without any form of benefit.

In very simple terms, the implication of the decision of the
NICN in the case under review is that the employment of an employee
should not be reliant on the execution of deposit targets issued by
an employer especially since the employer must provide work. The
NICN resolved that such practice is illegal and should be outlawed.
However, can we say that employment reliant on meeting a set target
is illegal and an unfair labour practice as held by the NIC in the
case under review? In analyzing the correctness or otherwise of
this decision of the NIC, we shall carefully evaluate the decision
in line with the applicable laws.

  1. Unfair Labour Practice

In recent times, efforts have been made to protect employees
from certain activities of their employers who are perceived to
have stronger bargaining power in employment relations. These
efforts have resulted in the enactment of legislations,
conventions, recommendations and protocols which have been made to
legally protect the workers. These laws provide for fairness and
equity in employment relations in the workplace. A derogation from
them would automatically result in unfair practice and therefore be
considered detrimental to the employee.2

In the case under review, the court described the actions of the
defendant as unfair labour practice. Unfair Labour Practice has
been defined as an unfair act or omission that arises between an
employer and an employee involving among others, the unfair conduct
of the employer relating to the promotion, demotion of an employee
or relating to the provision of benefits to an employee.3 The concept of unfair labour
practice is not expressly provided for in the Nigerian Labour Law
or any other local legislative enactment. The NICN under section
254C of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria
(as amended) is enjoined to adopt international best practices.
This provision implies that the court can declare an act or
omission as unfair labour practice even if the unfairness of such
act or omission cannot be traced to any existing law in Nigeria so
far such act or omission is short of international best practice
which is what the court did in making its decision.

In trying to establish the practice of attaching an
employee’s employment to deposit targets within the ambit of
unfair labour practice, there is the situation of employees having
to do whatever they are told to do by their employer and through
whatever means just to secure their jobs. Meanwhile, common law
provides that employees are under no obligation to submit to any
position or duty that is unreasonable.4 Although, there could be the
argument that the employee willingly accepted the terms of the
offer and duly executed the contract of employment which is devoid
of any vitiating element. Thus, implying that the employee was very
much aware of the intricacies of the job being offered and was
willing to execute it. In doing this, parties are ad idem on the
rules governing their relationship. Also, it is trite law that
courts are not to rewrite the contract of parties as they are bound
by the terms of the contracts willingly signed. It has always been
the nature of the courts not to interfere in such contracts.

Flowing from the above, it is safe to say that parties to such
contracts are very much aware of what is expected from them,
especially the employee. Therefore, some may argue that it is not
the place of the court to interfere in such cases as long as the
contract was not signed under any mitigating circumstances.
However, the courts are there for a reason which is to safeguard
the interests of those who may be deemed to possess a weaker
bargaining power in a contract as can be seen in this instance.

  1. Duty of the Employer to Provide Work

In the instant case, the court held that it was not the duty of
the employee to look for work to sustain the business of the
employer as this duty has been conferred on the employer. Section
17 of the Labour Act provides for the duty of the employer to
provide work for his employee. However, this duty is not a rigid
one as the court noted that this duty may be transferred to the
employee where he is to be awarded a commission based on it for the
extra effort. This means that the employee may decide to take up
the responsibility of sustaining the business of the employer in
exchange for receiving some form of benefit or commission from the
employer.

In analyzing this decision of the court, one may decide to look
at it from the angle that the setting up of deposit targets by the
employer is not necessarily a transfer of his obligation to the
employee. For instance, in the case of an employee who is employed
to render the services of a marketer as seen in the case under
review, such services will be deemed to be incidental to his duties
as a marketer. A marketer in an organization must target
prospective clients and devise a means of recruiting them for the
organization. In setting up these targets, the employee is expected
to devise the necessary means in which to engage the clients. Where
the employee fails to discharge the obligations given to him, the
resultant effect is a poor performance appraisal. Can we then say
that the employer in these circumstances will be wrong to dismiss
an employee who has failed to effectively discharge his duties?

It is pertinent to note that targets are usually set to assist
the banks to achieve their strategic objectives. Banks in Nigeria
use targets largely to push an employee to achieve organizational
goals. These targets are tools of reciprocity in that while the
banks aim for profits, the employees aim for intrinsic benefits.
These benefits could range from the increase in salaries, bonuses
and promotion. On the other hand, unrealistic and difficult targets
exert pressure on the employees and negatively affect the employee
and the bank due to low productivity that may occur during a period
of health-related absence. They can also decrease employees’
commitment, create pressure and anxiety, leading to negative
consequences on the employees.

CONCLUSION

The decision of the NICN in the above case is a laudable one
that seeks to protect the interests of an employee in a bank.
Banks, financial institutions and other stakeholders in the banking
industry are encouraged to take cognizance of this new development
for their interest and the interest of their employees Flowing from
the decision of the court in tangent with the negative effects of
this practice on the employees, it will be in the interest of banks
to seek proper legal advice while structuring the contractual terms
of an employee to avoid a situation that will be deemed an unfair
labour practice.

Footnotes

1
NICN/LA/424/2018

2 Ofoha Chibuzo
J.,”The Concept of Unfair Labour Practice and its
applicability in Nigeria”

3 Aluko Ayobami
Oluwaseun and Aderounmu Itunuoluwa, “Unfair Labour Practices
in Labour Relations in Nigeria” International Journal of
Politics and Good Governance Vol. 4, No. 10.1; Quarter I
2019

4 Cooper v. Stronge
& W. Co. (126 N.W. 541, 111 Minn. 177)

The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.



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