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The court has exclusive jurisdiction in civil causes and matters relating to or connected with any labour, employment, trade unions, industrial relations and matters arising from workplace, the conditions of service, including health, safety, welfare of labour, employee, worker and matter incidental thereto or connected therewith.

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[Death at Workplace] Industrial Court orders firm to pay late employee 10 years salary, N3.9m as damages within 30 days


1690 Wednesday 24th May 2023

Hon. Justice (Prof.) Elizabeth Oji of the Lagos Judicial Division of the National Industrial Court has ordered one Nigerian firm, ICETE Limited to pay Mr. Desmond the sum of N10m representing his late son's ten years salary, General damages for pain, agony and emotional destabilization and the Cost of action within 30 days.


The Court held that Mr. Desmond is entitled to compensation for the death of his son, who died in the employment of the firm as a result of negligence on the part of the company.


From facts, the Claimant- Mr. Desmond had submitted that his late son who worked as a driver with the defendant lost his life while on duty, and averred that his son’s death would have been averted if the company had made provisions for the minimum standard requirements for safety measures according to best global practice.


He further stated that all efforts to get material or financial support for catering for the Deceased’s dependents proved abortive.


In defense, the company stated that the matters complained of were occasioned without any negligence or default on their part as the Deceased’s death did not arise out of or in the course of his employment, and had borne all expenses incidental to and inclusive of the recovery of the Deceased’s body up to his burial to the sum of N731, 000.00.


The company argued that Mr. Desmond’s claims for compensation for the death of his son ought to be made in accordance with the provisions of the Employees’ Compensation Act and the failure of Mr. Desmond to make his claim for compensation at the Management Board of the NSITF and exhausting the appeal processes before approaching the Court as a condition precedent robs the Court of jurisdiction.


The company argued that Mr. Desmond's testimony and admission that he was not present at the site where the unfortunate incident occurred amount to hearsay which the Court cannot rely on.  


In opposition, Mr. Desmond averred that by virtue of the Employees’ Compensation Act 2010, the onus is on the Defendant to inform the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund Management Board of the demise of his late son which it failed to do.


His Counsel, Efe Ize-Iyanu Esq maintained that his client can elect to approach the Court either through the Common Law on tort and negligence or through the Employees’ Compensation Act; and urged the Court to dismiss the company submission.


Delivering judgment, the presiding judge, Justice Elizabeth Oji faulted the company on negligence and held that its contention that Mr. Desmond should have gone through the Nigerian Social Insurance Trust Fund Management Board set up under the Employees Compensation Act, 2010 fails in the face of the National Industrial Court Act.


The Court held that Mr. Desmond is at liberty to choose to seek compensation under the Employees’ Compensation Act or to come to the Court, provided that Mr. Desmond having elected to bring an action in court is barred from further compensation from the Nigerian Social Insurance Trust Fund in respect of the injuries complained of in this case; unless the exempting circumstances exist.


“The above evidence clearly shows that the Claimant’s Deceased’s son was at the location of his employment, at the time he met his death.  He had no other reason to be at the location, if not because of his job.  I find therefore that the Claimant’s son met his death, in the course of his employment.  


“I have found already that the Claimant’s son died in the course of his employment with the Defendant.  I have also found that the facts of the case point to negligence on the part of the Defendant, by the principle of res ipsa loquitor.” Justice Oji ruled

 

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