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The Senate has come to the rescue of a physically challenged junior staff of Total E & P Nigeria Limited, Mr. Blessing Unata, by securing the payment of N8 million severance in his favour.
The decision followed the recommendation of the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, following his petition to it over his alleged dismissal from service.
While presenting the committee report, its Chairman, Senator Ayo Akinyelure, said the petition was presented on April 17, 2012, by late Senator Pius Ewherido.
The committee which said it invited the petitioner and the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Total E & P Nigeria Limited in accordance with the principles of fair hearing and social justice, said Unata told the committee that he was a production operator with the oil firm as a contract staff for 13 years before he was finally recruited as a permanent staff in October 2002.
According to the report, the petitioner fell sick and developed visual defects resulting from loss of vision in 2003.
It added that he was taken to Eye Foundation Hospital in Ikeja, Lagos State, by the management of the firm where he was diagnosed of ‘Mooren Ulcer’ and consequently placed on treatment immediately.
The petitioner also explained that he was recommended for surgery but after more medical examinations by the medical director of the hospital, it was confirmed that his eyes would reject the ‘Conea graph’ which was to be administered on him.
Unata said the hospital therefore referred him to Moorefield Eye Hospital in London but that the oil firm, instead, took him to South Africa for surgery.
The report further said Unata had five unsuccessful â€˜Conea graphâ€™ operations after which his name was removed from the company’s payroll on the grounds that he had overstayed his sick benefit.
The petitioner added that the development forced him to take his matter to his trade union whose officials confronted the management after which he was flown to the United Kingdom where he eventually had a successful surgery in May 2008.
The petitioner also stated that whereas he was certified fit to go back to work by both his surgeon in UK and the medical director of his company in 2009, the management refused to recall him.
The report added that the Executive Director, Human Resources of the company, Mrs. Edith Okonkwo, who represented the firm before the senate committee, said Unata’s employment was lawfully terminated on September 30, 2005.
She also said the petitioner was declared to be unfit for his job barely one year after his appointment with the company, adding that his medical treatment was fully sponsored by the firm abroad.
Okonkwo said: “His 18 months sick leave ended on September 30, 2005, and the company terminated his employment on medical grounds on October 4, 2005, in accordance with the company’s condition of service, but he refused to sign for his terminal benefits till date.”
She argued that the company offered to pay Unata N6.3 million even though his terminal benefit was calculated to be N1.03million.
â€œThe company had to do this on compassionate grounds after it had spent over $120, 000 but he still refused and the company still yielded to the appeal by the senate committee to increase the amount by additional N2million which he also rejected,” Okonkwo explained.
However, while presenting the report last week, the senate committee chairman, Akinyelure, explained that the petitioner had appealed to his committee to release the N8 million which the company had deposited with it.
The senate, while adopting the report, asked the clerk to return the bank draft to the company so that the petitioner could go and pick it up.