Microsoft Nigeria is presently enmeshed in an image denting situation following the award of N 39.66 million against the company by the National Industrial Court. The award was in favour of a former Enterprise Marketing Manager of the company, Mrs Ejieke Maduka, who got sacked after complaining of being sexually harassed by her immediate boss.
At the centre of the harassment saga was Emmanuel Onyeje, Microsoft Nigeria’s former Country Manager, who was joined as a defendant alongside Microsoft Nigeria limited, Microsoft Corporation and Mr Adefolu Majekodunmi.
In the suit, Maduka had claimed that she was sacked because she refused to succumb to sexual advances from Mr Onyeje, her immediate boss and also for being against an insiders’ dealing that involved Mr Majekodunmi.
In the defence offered by Microsoft Nigeria Limited however, the company urged the court to dismiss the suit based on the fact that it had the right to hire or fire the claimant. The company also averred that Mrs Maduka’s sack had nothing whatsoever to do with her alleged refusal to succumb to her immediate boss’ sexual advances.
The company also denied that Mr Onyeje sexually harassed the claimant.
In its prayer before the court, Microsoft Corporation asked that its name be struck out of the matter as it neither employed nor sacked the claimant. The international body also told the court that it did not and does not owe her any duty of care.
Majekodunmi too prayed the court to strike out his name from the suit because all he did was to carry out a lawful order which came from his employer, which was the issuance of a letter of termination of appointment on the claimant. His prayer was subsequently granted as the court ruled that he is not a proper party in the suit.
In the course of the trial, Mr Onyeje denied harassing the claimant sexually. His claim was corroborated by his only witness, Awawu Olumide Sojunri, who testified that she never saw the boss sexually harassing any female staff. The story however changed in the course of her cross examination as she admitted that during an official trip to Atlanta, Georgia, USA, Mr Onyeje was seen touching and poking her. She told the court that though he did not tickle her, he saw her touching and poking some of her other colleagues as well.
While delivering the judgment, Justice O. Obaseki commented thus on Awawu Sojunri, the witness to the 3rd defendant, “I found this witness to be very evasive in her answers. She had to be reminded that she was under oath. Her name was mentioned in the application’s affidavit as having been touched and tickeld by the 3rd respondent, yet she denied it. She gave false information to the counsel who swore to the affidavit and she was not truthful in her witness deposition. She gave inconsistent material evidence on oath.
By her own testimony, Fatumata Soukouna, the applicant’s witness and herself could from their seats see things going on in the office.”
The judge continued that “Fatimata Soukouna saw the third respondent touched and tickled the applicant several times in the office and other female staff. It follows that this witness saw it as well but denied it in her deposition. I find that she is not a witness of truth, I therefore reject her evidence that she did not see the 3rd respondent touch the applicant.”
The judge thereafter awarded the sum of N 39.6 million in favour of the claimant.