The National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) sitting in Lagos, Wednesday adjourned till June 29, a $13.14 million (about N2.1 billion) suit by Paul Odunewu, an ex-Network Group Operations Manager in MTN Nigeria against the company. Justice Oyejoju Oyewumi adjourned for hearing of a motion filed by defence counsel, Mrs. Ayo Obe, SAN, seeking to substitute a witness.
Odunewu has accused the company of withholding his entitlements, including a long-term incentive scheme (share option) worth over $13.14 million (about N2.1 billion). He is also demanding N100 million damages, among others. MTN Group Limited, South Africa; MTN Nigeria and MTN International, Mauritius are defendants in the suit.
At the commencement of proceedings yesterday, claimant’s counsel, Kemi Balogun, SAN, opposed the motion on the grounds among others that the defendants intended to use it to amend their statement of defence without following due process.
He said: “There was no mention of amendment of statement of defence. The amendment seeks to change the colouration of the entire case in view of the evidence already tendered.”
Advertisement Justice Oyewumi directed the claimant to file his objection in writing and adjourned till June 29 for hearing of the motion and October 24, 25 and 27 for the defendants to open their case. At the last hearing in November, a former chief executive of the company,
Mr. Adrian Wood, told the court that Odunewu increased MTN’s base stations from 100 to 2,500 in three years and was one of 50 top employees offered the company’s shares. Wood, an Australian, said to keep such top employees, MTN Nigeria initiated a retention policy of leadership development and succession, under which those with potential were promoted within the MTN group offered shares.
He said: “Odunewu was nominated as a key employee and was offered a share option plan being devised at that time. “By 2004, he was one of 50 senior employees chosen to participate in MTN Nigeria’s share offer plan.”