Court awards N1m compensation against Union Bank for negligence

Hon. Justice Olufunke Anuwe of the Abuja Judicial Division of the National Industrial Court has ordered the Union Bank of Nigeria to pay one Ngozi Ogbonna the sum of N1,000,000.00 as compensation for the ailment suffered while in the bank’s employment.

 

 

The Court declared that Union Bank of Nigeria acted negligently for failure to provide Ngozi Ogbonna with personal protective equipment and a safe working environment in the course of her employment which exposed her to an adverse medical condition that severely impacted her health.

Justice Anuwe held that the employer is always under a duty to take reasonable care for the safety and health of the employee, and where an employer fails or was negligent in its duty of care to the employee resulting in injury to the employee, the employer will be liable in damages to the affected employee.

From facts, the claimant- Ngozi Ogbonna had submitted that she resigned from her employment with the Union Bank because she suffered from the ailment as a result of the failure of the bank to provide her with personal protective equipment.

She alleged that the negligent acts of the bank towards her amount to constructive dismissal as no reasonable person can be expected to work in such condition she was subjected to and the medical report advised that she be kept away from the work environment that aggravated her health crisis but the report was ignored by the bank despite follow up emails in that regard.

On its part, the Defendant- Union Bank of Nigeria contended that Ngozi voluntarily resigned from her employment without any fault of the bank and that she was not forced to continue working for the bank when she felt she was unable to meet up her job schedule.

The Bank reiterated its policy on the implementation of a safe working environment for its entire staff and it complies with best practices as it relates to a safe workplace and safety measures, and submitted that Ngozi alleged ailment could not have been contracted in the course of her role as there are other causes of the ailment.

During cross-examination, the bank’s witness averred that it is not his duty to visit branches to ascertain whether or not the dehumidifiers and nose masks have been provided and not aware that cash dust is a cause of acute bronchitis.

Delivering judgment after careful analysis of the submissions of both parties, the presiding Judge, Hon. Justice Olufunke Anuwe held that Ngozi Ogbonna was given a clean bill of health in the medical checkup and was not suffering from an ailment at the time of her employment.

The Court held that Ngozi Ogbonna was diagnosed of the ailment during her employment in 2020 and has been able to show that the daily schedule of her duties as at 2019, which include manual handling of cash and sorting cash for ATM exposed her to germs, bacteria, viruses, dust and dirt from the cash was the cause of the ailment.

The Court dismissed Ngozi’s allegation of constructive dismissal and other reliefs for lacking merit and reiterated that she ceased to be an employee of the bank from the date of the resignation and was not entitled to be paid any salary thereafter.

“Therefore, the Defendant did not adduce evidence to dislodge the Claimant’s evidence that she was not provided PPE by the Defendant. The consequence is that the Claimant has proved that the Defendant did not provide her with PPE in her task of handling cash on a daily basis.”