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JUSTICE FOR BOSEDE ELUGBAJU

By NBF News

Justice for Bosede Elugbaju
By Sun News Publishing
Editorial Index
Friday, March 05, 2010
After eight years of protracted legal battle, Mrs. Abosede Elugbaju, a victim of Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) negligence, has obtained justice courtesy of a ruling in her favour, by the Federal High Court in Ikoyi, Lagos. Justice Charles Archibong of the Federal High Court, Lagos, had last year granted the victim a garnishee (absolute) order directing some banks in which PHCN, has accounts to pay her a compensation of N17.97 million. Mrs. Elugbaju was electrocuted on September 26, 2002 when PHCN cable fell on her at Ketu area of Lagos. She sustained grievous injuries, which led to the amputation of her left leg.

The victim had, in the suit she filed against the then National Electric Power Authority (NEPA), now PHCN, demanded for N35 million damages for the grievous injury she suffered during the incident. In her ruling of September 26, 2007, Justice Rebecca Olomojobi of the Federal High Court in Lagos ordered the power company to pay the victim the sum of N17.97 million.

This was never to be as PHCN, refused to obey the court judgement. Instead, it filed a notice of appeal against the verdict. It also filed an application for stay of execution of the judgement. On taking over the case from Justice Olomojobi, Justice Charles Archibong, in his ruling of April 1, 2009, refused to stay the execution of the judgement. The PHCN did not appeal against the judgement. Later, Elugbaju filed a motion ex-parte on November 4, 2009 asking for an order of garnishee against the PHCN and the other garnishees directing the banks to attach the judgement sum in any bank account that the PHCN operates in Lagos. On December 2, 2009 Justice Archibong ordered the banks in which PHCN has accounts to pay the compensation.

Following that order, the matter was finally brought to an end on February 16, 2010, when the victim was handed a cheque of N17.97 million from PHCN.

We hail the judgement and the steps taken to ensure that the victim gets justice. This is a rare case as far as victims' compensation is concerned. The case is about PHCN discharging its responsibility creditably. For PHCN, the case has shown that it has no place to run or hide. No doubt, this judgement will boost people's confidence in the judiciary in terms of assuaging their grievances. It is, indeed, a step in the right direction, especially on aspects of the law that deal with compensation for bodily injuries.

Elugbaju's case, which may be the first of its kind in the country, has demonstrated that corporate organizations can be answerable for their misdeeds. Before this, it had been taken for granted that PHCN cannot be sued for accidents arising from its negligence. We commend the PHCN authorities for complying with the judgement. Other corporate organizations in the country should emulate the PHCN example. Dodging one's responsibility through one tactic or the other does not help in a matter like this. We applaud the patience and professionalism exhibited by the victim's attorneys in prosecuting the case to a logical conclusion. Let other lawyers also borrow a leaf or two from their shining example.

Although, no amount of money can indeed replace the damage suffered by the victim, nevertheless, we advise the family of Elugbaju to make judicious use of the compensation. It is now time for PHCN to replace all its obsolete equipment and facilities throughout the country. The recent PHCN cable disaster in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, might have been averted or minimized if the power utility company had been diligent in its maintenance duties.

PHCN should, as a matter of urgency and national need, embark on massive public enlightenment on the dangers of having structures near its cables and other high voltage equipment. These campaigns should be made in English, Pidgin and major indigenous languages in the country. Cases of permanent injury and death resulting from PHCN equipment malfunction abound. And in most of the cases, the victims suffer in silence. This should not be the case. Victims of such negligence should always be compensated.