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Ex-workers sue BATN for incapacitation, unlawful disengagement

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National Industrial Court, Abuja

Four former employees of the British American Tobacco Nigeria (BATN) who were sacked for redundancy due to their health challenges have taken the company to the National Industrial Court (NIC).

The former employees: Timothy Makinde, Ayodeji Da Silva, Taofeek Alabi and Ayodele Awe are asking the court to declare their sack illegal.

They are claiming N50 million each as damages for the company’s refusal to follow due process of ‘Disengagement on Medical Grounds’ as stipulated in the employee handbook and Employee Compensation Act.

They are also seeking alternative claims of N39 million, N48 million, N34 million and N32 million, respectively as special damages. Joined as defendant in the suit before the Ibadan Division of the NIC is the Nigerian Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) management.

Makinde, 34, who was employed in 2004 as a Manufacturing Assistant, was disengaged in 2016 after he was diagnosed of Osteoarthritis, a medical condition that causes pain and stiffness at the joints.

Before he joined BATN, he was made to undergo a mandatory medical test at the Lagoon Hospital, Apapa, Lagos, where he was certified fit.

He told The Guardian that he never had any medical history of Ostheoarthritis, adding that in the course of discharging his duties in the company’s Secondary Manufacturing Department, he was made to regularly load the cigarette trolleys, which weighed 70 kilogrammes.

For Da Silva who was employed in 2006 as a Technical Trainee, his job description included manual checking of tobacco and filter, running of machine for 12 hours, and manual blowing and cleaning of tobacco dust, among other responsibilities.

But he sustained a knee injury during a football game, which was left untreated for weeks in 2011 during the company’s periodic sports week because the medical personnel said he needed to get management approval.

By the time he was instructed to go to a hospital, both knees had become swollen and an arthroscopy surgery performed in 2013 showed he had a cruciate ligament damage that would require serious physiotherapy and knee filling.

Da Silva said BATN abandoned him at the hospital for weeks and he ended up paying N85, 000 for his treatment before returning to work but had his employment terminated in October 2016.

Alabi was employed as a Technical Trainee in 2004 but BATN failed to put in place appropriate safety measures at the workplace, which made him to work without a standard noise mask and professional safety boot.


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