Industrial Court orders firm to release Obateru Abidemi Pharmacy certificate within 72 hours, awards 4 Million Naira Damages

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The Presiding Judge of Benin Division of the National Industrial Court, His Lordship, Hon. Justice Adunola Adewemimo has declared the refusal, neglect and failure of the Fidson Healthcare to release to Pharm. Obateru Abidemi his original certificate of Bachelor of Pharmacy as unlawful and a violation right to personal property.

The Court ordered Fidson Healthcare to release to the Abidemi within 72 hours his Bachelor of Pharmacy certificate, and payment of Four Million Naira as general damages within 30 days failure upon which it will attract a 10% interest per annum.

From facts, the claimant’s case is that he was employed by the firm 31st August 2007, and as a condition for the employment, he deposited his Pharmacy degree certificate with the company.

He pleaded that on the 28th of December, 2009, he resigned his appointment and the defendant accepted the resignation vide letter dated 5th February, 2010 and averred that he wrote letters to the Defendant between 2013 and 2016 demanding for the return of his original certificate which is in the custody of the defendant to no avail.

He also pleaded that his fundamental right was violated by the defendant and he has suffered psychological trauma, mental pains, distress, embarrassment and inconvenience as a result of the defendant’s refusal to release his certificate.

The defendant denied accepting the resignation of the claimant and pleaded that its refusal to release the claimant’s original certificate is because of his continued indebtedness to the company and denied violating the right of the claimant urged the court to dismiss the action with cost, as it is frivolous and misconceived.

Counsel to the defendant submitted that the Defendant has the right to retain the claimant’s certificate because he did not successfully disengage from the defendant, filed a counter-claim and averred that the claimant is owing the company a sum of N9,234,163.00k being unremitted proceeds from the sale of drugs sold by the claimant with 25% interest per annum from the 21st of March, 2016 till judgment is delivered and thereafter at 23% per annum until the judgment debt is paid.

In reply, claimant denied all the averments contained in the counter-claim and pleaded that the counter-claim of the defendant is statute-barred and as such the court lacks jurisdiction to hear and determine same.

However, the defendant added that the claimant admitted under cross-examination that he still made payment to the Defendant after his exit from the employment, and posited that oral evidence cannot be allowed to vary or add to documentary evidence urged the Court to dismiss the claims of the Claimant for being unmeritorious while granting the counterclaim.

Delivering Judgment, the presiding Judge, Justice Adewemimo held that the phrase successful disengagement in an employment relationship is untenable, that the right of an employee to resign from his employment is an absolute right that cannot be taken away under any guise.

“I find that the right of the claimant to his credentials is immutable and cannot be taken away from him especially after the employment relationship has ceased. Allowing otherwise will amount to self-help by the employer, which is capable of being abused.

“I have read Exhibit OT6 and I find it difficult to agree with the defendant’s counsel that Exhibit OT6 is an admission of indebtedness to the defendant by the claimant. I must say that there is nothing in this document that will amount to an admission.

“I find that Exhibit FD7 is an allegation against the claimant on his lack of efforts to recover a sum of N2,630,910.00 standing against the claimant, and cannot qualify as evidence of the claimant’s indebtedness to the defendant. A document is stated to speak for itself, an allegation of failure to recover a sum of money is different from an indebtedness.

The Court also held that counterclaim was filed 8 years after the cause of action arose, and it’s outside the limitation of law of Ondo State for action in simple contract, tort and any action to recover any sum of money, dismissed the counter-claim for being statute-barred.

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