The Benin Presiding Judge of the National Industrial Court, Hon. Justice Adunola Adewemimo has ordered the NNPC to pay one Godwin Okunzuwa the sum of N25,000,000 (Twenty-Five Million Naira only) as compensatory damages for permanent incapacitation and loss of earnings, and N250,000 costs of action within 30 days.
Justice Adewemimo held that it is not enough for an employer to take care of the medical expenses of a worker, but such an employee must also be compensated in the case of permanent incapacitation incurred as a consequence of the industrial accident.
However, the Court stated that Godwin Okunzuwa has not proffered any cogent proof of the further treatment he intends to procure to be entitled to the sum of N250m medical claim.
From facts, the claimant- Mr. Godwin Okunzuwa had submitted that he was employed by the NNPC and posted to the Integrated Data Services Ltd, and while on an official trip he was involved in a road accident, sustaining spinal cord injury as a result of which, he became bedridden and was not availed with adequate and timeous medical treatment after the accident, all effort to take him abroad for treatment was rejected by the defendant.
He submitted that the defendants rejected the sum of N220,150,000 (Two Hundred and Twenty Million, One Hundred and Fifty Thousand Naira) for medical treatment he demanded and offered to pay him N7,500,000 (Seven Million, Five Hundred Thousand Naira) instead, which he reluctantly accepted out of desperation.
In defense, the defendants denied the allegations and alleged that the claimant was an employee of an independent contractor, and that all the assistance rendered to Godwin were done as part of the NNPC corporate social responsibility, and not because he was their employee. They maintained that the suit is baseless and statute-barred for filing out of time 10 years when the cause of action arose.
The defendant's witness continued that the firms did not frustrate any attempt to treat Godwin anywhere as he was provided with the best medical service, and the claimant was not recommended for medical treatment overseas.
He argued that Godwin did not prove that he was employed by the NNPC or the terms and conditions guiding same, and urged the court to dismiss the case in its entirety.
In opposition, learned counsel argued that it is not for the defendants to contend that his client did not tender his contract of employment because he was not given any, as that was their practice with contract staff, urged the Court to dismiss the objection for being an abuse of court process that the objection was earlier raised and comprehensively dealt with at the Calabar Division of the Court where the suit originated from and urged the court to grant the reliefs sought.
Delivering the Judgment after careful analysis of the submission of both parties, the presiding Judge, Justice Adunola Adewemimo dismissed the objection for lacking merit and held that further scrutiny of the evidence adduced in the case reveals the contrary in respect of the contentions of the defendants that they were not in an employment relationship with the Mr. Godwin.
Justice Adewemimo further held that the NNPC affirmed that the claimant is their staff vide their own correspondence in the case, and he was also in their personnel vehicle on an official assignment when the accident occurred, and the Exhibits tendered attested to the employment relationship.
“Therefore, upon due consideration of the position of the law espoused above vis-à-vis the evidence available in this case, I find that the claimant has successfully established that he was an employee of the defendants. I so hold.” The Court ruled.
On the Godwin claim for salary, the Court held that in view of the nature of the claimant’s injury, which rendered him bedridden, that the contract of employment was frustrated and performance rendered impossible and therefore the defendants bear no obligation to pay his salaries as the contract is deemed frustrated.
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