The Nigeria Electricity Liability Management Ltd (NELM) and the Benin Electricity Distribution Company (BEDC) have been directed to pay the sum of N21.8 million to a former employee of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), Mr Olufemi Bamidele.
The Presiding Judge of the Benin Division of the National Industrial Court, Justice Adunola Adewemimo, in his ruling, said the two organisations must pay the amount within 30 days.
Justice Adewemino said awarded N1.794 million to the former staff of the collapsed national electricity firm as cost of his medical bills in special damages, while the N20 million was awarded as general damages against the defendants.
According to the court, NELM took over the management and settlement of the PHCN, while BEDC took over the distribution of electricity in Ondo State that both sprouted out from the defunct PHCN and have a stake in the matter.
The claimant, Mr Bamidele, was employed as a Contract Staff by the defunct PHCN in 2008 and his appointment was formalised. He averred that on September 10, 2013, in the course of duty, he was injured and the incident left him unconscious and was treated for burns and other complications.
He averred further that some of his colleagues and officers in his cadre, who were not retained after the privatisation of PHCN, were paid off and got an average of N2 million as a result, but received nothing from the management of the company.
He pleaded further that he was never officially laid off at any point in time, but the company refused to absorb him back into its employment after the accident.
He claimed that he was subjected to the worst form of neglect and injustice by the defendants, ranging from non-payment of his medical bills to tactical lay off with his requisite entitlements left unpaid and no compensation for his permanent incapacitation and psychological trauma.
In response, the first defendant, NELM pleaded that the claimant went outside his official duties on the day of the incident as he was not authorised to rectify faults and he neither sought approval nor notify the office before embarking on the job that resulted in his injury.
The agency further added that the claimant did not take into consideration his safety as required of staff on field assignments and failed to take adequate measures that all their legitimate employees were paid off during the privatisation exercise that claimant was a contract staff and his employment was never formalised and not entitled to any of the reliefs sought.
On its part, the second defendant, BEDC, asserted that it did not inherit the liabilities of the defunct PHCN, and added that proper parties were not before the court, and no reasonable cause of action was disclosed against it, emphasising that the court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the suit.
In response, the claimant submitted that a panel was set up after the accident to verify if he had his safety equipment on at the time of the incident, and a report was equally issued confirming same.
Delivering judgment after careful evaluation of the submissions of both counsels, the trial judge held that the argument of the first defendant that the claimant’s appointment was never confirmed and formalised as a legitimate staff of the company at the time of the incident cannot exonerate them and will not preclude the defendants’ liability.
“It is clear that by the nature of the relationship between the claimant and the company, a service relationship exists, the general requirement of law is where there exists a service relationship between the employer and the employee, the former is under a duty to take reasonable care of the safety well-being of the latter in all circumstances of the case, so as to forestall any harm to others or expose him (employee) to unnecessary risk.
“The contention of the defendants’ witnesses that the claimant was issued safety gears which he did not use was not substantiated by credible evidence. The claimant has on the balance of probabilities established before this court that the defendants owed him a duty of care that was not exercised after the injury he sustained,” the judge ruled.
However, the Justice Adewemimo held that claimant did not place anything before the court or adduce any credible evidence on his entitlement to the said sum of N2 million as he did not also call any evidence from his colleagues to prove that they were indeed paid the said amount.
Apprehension Over AMCON MD’s Visit to EFCC
By Aduragbemi Omiyale
The visit of the Managing Director of Assets Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON), Mr Ahmed Kuru, to the office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is already causing apprehension.
Mr Kuru was reportedly grilled by the anti-graft agency on Wednesday after he was invited by the organisation for questioning.
Already, it is being speculated that his ordeal with the EFCC may be connected with the plans by AMCON to name and shame chronic debtors, who took loans from commercial banks but refused to repay as promised.
Yesterday, the AMCON MD was grilled by the agency over allegations bordering on the diversion of assets and the sale of the properties to his associates at ridiculous prices.
According to reports, Mr Kuru allegedly sold properties valued at billions of naira belonging to Atlantic to another despite a court case on the assets.
Atlantic was accused of loan default with Skye Bank and the properties in collateral were seized and allegedly sold below the prevailing market value while the action was instituted in court.
Amid these accusations, the EFCC is yet to comment at the time of filing this report.
AMCON is an agency set up by the federal government to acquire all toxic loans of commercial banks, with the aim of recovering them.
In November 2021, the agency submitted a list containing its top 1,000 obligors owing N4.4 trillion to the National Assembly.
Mr Kuru had said with the support of the parliament and the Judiciary, recovering the total current exposure on all Eligible Bank Asset (EBAs), which stands at N4.4 trillion, may be possible before the sunset period.
He had lamented that more recently, due to the socio-economic downturn, the market values of assets have significantly reduced, lower than the valuation at the point of EBAs purchase, making it extremely difficult to consummate sales transactions.
“To enable AMCON to succeed in its national call to duty, AMCON solicits the continued support of this Distinguished Committee. The Judiciary must be encouraged to respect the provisions of the law that require them to fast-track cases before them, issue certificates of judgement on properties, which the Corporation has no collateral and demand debtors to deposit Judgment sum before proceeding to appeal any judgement,” he had stated.
NSCDC Denies Operating Illegal Oil Bunkering Site
By Adedapo Adesanya
The Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) has debunked the rumour that its marine exhibits yard in Ogbogoro jetty, Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of Rivers State, was an illegal oil bunkering site.
This was made known by the Rivers State Commandant of NSCDC, Mr Aliyu Bature, who explained that the Ogbogoro jetty has remained its marine exhibits yard for over 10 years.
He added that every marine exhibit like boats, vessels, barges drums, arrested by or handed over to the Corps by sister agencies for oil theft are usually detained at the yard, pending investigation and court prosecution.
This follows claims made by Obio/Akpor LGA Chairman, Mr George Ariolu, that the NSCDC marine exhibits yard in Ogbogoro was being used for illegal bunkering activities.
In the reaction to the allegation, Mr Bature disclosed that the NSCDC Commandant General, Mr Abubakar Audi, in December 2021 visited the said yard, maintaining that it was a known fact that the yard has been the Corps’ marine exhibits yard.
The agency said some of the exhibits, including 220 drums of AGO and eight Cotonou boats in the yard were seized by the Nigerian Navy and handed over to the NSCDC last week, while other vessels were taken by operatives of the Corps.
He disclosed that the agency has got an intelligence report that hoodlums were planning to attack the yard, by setting it ablaze in order to destroy the exhibits, assuring that such plans will be strongly resisted.
“This place is our marine exhibits yard and not an illegal dump. Most of the exhibits here were arrested by the Navy and handed over to us, while some of the arrests too were made by us.
“The commandant general was here in December and he’s aware that this place is our exhibits yard.
“The Commandant General has deployed personnel to ensure the place is secured, Ogbogoro jetty is a no-go area for anybody because destroying this place means destroying the exhibits to prove that these products were all stolen.
“We had it on good authority that hoodlums were planning to attack this place in order to destroy the exhibits and we will not allow that,” the statement said.
The NSCDC also urged members of the public to report any personnel of the organisation who is involved in the business of aiding and abetting oil theft, illegal bunkering and vandalism, warning that the agency will not hesitate to show such person the way out.
“If any of our personnel is caught, please report the person to us and we will discipline the person accordingly.
“The NSCDC leadership does not in any way condone acts of indiscipline. We are charged to protect critical national assets and if any of our personnel is involved, we will not take it likely.
“That is why those who were in charge of the anti-vandal unit have been disbanded, and are being investigated currently by the committee set up by the Commandant General,” the statement said.
Senate Re-amends Electoral Bill, Okays Direct, Indirect, Consensus Primaries
By Modupe Gbadeyanka
The Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, 2021, which passed by the National Assembly on November 18, 2021, and sent to President Muhammadu Buhari for assent but was rejected, has been re-amended.
The President declined assent to the bill because the parliament inserted a clause that makes it mandatory for political parties to elect candidates for elections only through direct primaries.
On Wednesday, the Senate adjusted this clause and approved direct, indirect primaries or consensus as to the procedure for the nomination of candidates by political parties for the various elective positions.
The upper chamber of the legislative arm of government, in a statement signed by Mr Ezrel Tabiowo, the Special Assistant on Press to Senate President, Mr Ahmad Lawan, said the recommended Clause 84(3) was also approved.
The section stated that “a political party that adopts the direct primaries procedure shall ensure that all aspirants are given equal opportunity of being voted for by members of the party.”
Clause 84(4) further provides that “a political party that adopts the system of indirect primaries for the choice of its candidate shall adopt the procedure outlined below; (a) In the case of nominations to the position of Presidential candidate, a political party shall, (i) hold special conventions in each of the 36 states of the federation and FCT, where delegates shall vote for each of the aspirants at designated centres in each State Capital on specified dates.”
The clause provides that a National Convention shall be held for the ratification of the candidate with the highest number of votes.
The amendment followed a motion for its re-commital to the Committee of the Whole, which was sponsored by the Senate Leader, Mr Yahaya Abdullahi.
In his presentation, the lawmaker noted that the rationale for Mr Buhari withholding assent bordered on his observation in Clause 84.
President Buhari in the letter dated December 13, 2021, and addressed to Mr Lawan had explained that his decision to withhold assent to the electoral bill was informed by advice from relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies of Government after a thorough review.
According to the President, signing the bill into law would have serious adverse legal, financial, economic and security consequences on the country, particularly in view of Nigeria’s peculiarities.
He added that it would also impact negatively on the rights of citizens to participate in government as constitutionally ensured.
Mr Abdullahi, however, explained that the motion for re-commital of the bill to the Committee on the Whole was against the backdrop of the “need to address the observation by Mr President C-in-C and make necessary amendment in accordance with Order 87(c) of the Senate Standing Orders, 2022 (as amended); and relying on order 1(b) and 52(6) of the Senate Standing Orders, 2022 (as amended).”
Accordingly, the chamber rescinded its decision on the affected clause of the bill as passed and recommitted same to the Committee of the Whole for consideration and passage.
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