The Presiding Judge, Enugu Judicial division of the National Industrial Court, Hon. Justice Oluwakayode Arowosegbe has declared the refusal of the Orthopaedic Hospitals Management Board to convert Mr Chiori Okoroafor to the position of a Technician of prosthetic and orthotics department from 1986 to 2012 and the refusal to regularly consider him for each promotion circle before his retirement as unconscionable, breach of covenant and done mala fide.
The Court held that by the promotion interview attended in 2012, the Mr Chiori ought to have been promoted to, at least, Grade Level 08 with correct conversion, ordered the board to pay the retired staff the sum of One Million, Six Hundred and Fifty Thousand, Three Hundred and Ninety-Two Naira as the total annual CONHESS salary on Grade Level 08, Step 15, with Ten Million Naira as General, Aggravated and Exemplary damages for the emotional, psychological and financial trauma and the irreparable consequences.
From facts, the claimant-Mr Chiori had pleaded he was marginalized for the 35 years; that after completion of the in-service study in Prosthetics and Orthotics in 1985, the board refused to approve his application for further studies but instead, asked him to train four other staffers, pleaded that; his numerous applications to be converted to Prosthetist and Orthotist, were not honoured until he retired in 2012 that the board failed to put him in his right cadre and rank by promotion, contrary to the law and the Public Service Rules.
In defence, the board pleaded that the claimant needed additional qualification, in addition to the specialized certificate in Prosthetics/Orthotics to be converted. And further that, he was not promoted because of disciplinary actions against him, that after obtaining additional qualification, there existed no vacancy and the claimant had reached the topmost position in his cadre.
The learned counsel A.N. AFAM-ANEKE Esq argued that the claimant retired in 2012 and filed the action outside the three months door urged the court to dismiss the case for being statute barred and further that the claimant had the duty to prove which rules of the civil service the defendants violated.
In opposition, the claimant’s learned counsel J. C. ANYIAM Esq argued that, the board that found it impossible to convert and promote the claimant couldn’t expect the Court dismiss the suit on account of the limitation law urged the court to hear the suit on the merit.
After careful evaluation of the submissions of both counsel, delivering the Judgment, the presiding Judge, Hon. Justice Oluwakayode Arowosegbe held that a case emanating from employment relations/contracts are exempted from the ambit of the POPA, dismissed the objection for lacking merit.
“It is illogical for an employer to sponsor employee on in-service training, and after the employee’s success, fail to convert the employee or; after a long number of years without conversion, ask the employee to get an additional qualification, and after obtaining it, turn round to say there is no vacancy. This is twice breach of covenants.
It is necessary to point out that, when eventually the defendants replied the letters of request for conversion and asked the claimant to obtain additional qualification, they did not say it was because of queries that he had not been converted.
“…you cannot enjoy the benefits of the expertise of an employee and yet, deny him the corresponding right in being converted to the cadre pertaining to his expertise. This is not in tune with the economics of labour management, logic and human nature.
“The psychological trauma of turning the claimant to a slave, being discriminated against on all grounds for 26 years without respite and; the loss of dignity cannot be quantified in monetary terms. I, therefore, award the N10Million general damages in full, as minimally meeting the justice of this case, to assuage the fundamental breach of the employment rights of the claimant.”