Total Loses Bid To Stop Ex-Staff’s N5b Suit

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The National Industrial Court, (NIC) on Thursday dismissed a preliminary objection filed by oil company, TOTAL E&P Nigeria Limited (TEPNG) challenging the jurisdiction of the court to hear a N5 billion suit instituted against it by a former staff, Aralu Steve. Ruling on a preliminary objection filed by TOTAL, Justice Oyeyoju Oyewunmi held that the claimant’s suit disclosed reasonable cause of action against the oil company.

Justice Oyewunmi further held that the document frontloaded before the court, such as a letter of employment proved that there was a nexus between the claimant and the defendant.

The court also joined Maple Leaf Ventures Limited as the second defendant in the suit adding that the justice of the suit would be defeated without the participation of Maple Venture.

‘’There are reasonable grounds to join Maple Venture in the suit whose presence is essential to the complete and final adjudication of this suit. You cannot shave a person’s head in his absence”, Justice Oyewunmi held.

The claimant, a laboratory supervisor, had in his amended statement of claim filed by his lawyer, Oviemuno Obobolo, stated that on December 10, 2008 while carrying out chemical injection monitoring and pumps adjustment at the Obagi Flow Station owned by the defendant (TOTAL E&P Nigeria), he received a splash from one of the chemical injection.

The claimant stated that prior to the occurrence of the incident, he discovered that the particular pump had malfunction and promptly drew the attention of the defendant to it during the daily Heads of Departments meeting, which he attended as the Laboratory Supervisor.

The claimant added that in line with the defendant’s safety tips instructions, his colleagues promptly applied water to flush his face and other affected parts.

He stated further that after his summary discharge from the defendant’s sick bay, the condition of his left eye deteriorated so much so that he was constrained to seek urged medical attention at Opti-vue Eye-Care Limited and later at University of Port-Harcourt Teaching Hospital.

He stated that the accident left him temporarily blind for about five days and to his surprise the defendant allegedly did not reach out to him to know his wellbeing nor sought to assist him in any way.

The claimant stated further that the series of tests conducted on him revealed the inflammation of the liver coupled with growth from within as well as lost of vision. He stated that the recommendation of the Medical Consultants was for him to seek medical attention in an up-to-date diagnostic equipment to effectively determine the true state and stage of his deteriorating left eye. The claimant added that fearing that he may die of acute pain; he sought financial assistance from friends and relatives and travelled to Mumbai, India for further treatment.

While in India, the claimant stated that he was subjected to series of tests, which revealed a tumour growth in his left eye adding that the implication was that he was on the verge of having cancer of the eye.

He added that he notified the defendant of his medical sojourn abroad and solicited for its financial assistance but all to no avail. Consequently he instructed his lawyer to file suit-claiming N5 billion as general damages. But, the defendant in its Notice of Preliminary objection filed by its lawyer, Babatunde Fagbohunlu (SAN), challenged the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the suit.

The defendant argued that the claimant has failed to show that his case comes under Section 254C (1) (a) of the Act establishing the National Industrial Court hence robbing the court of jurisdiction.

Consequently, it prayed the court to strike out the suit for want of reasonable cause of action.

The matter has been adjourned till November 18 to enable parties amend their processes.