By Emmanuel Daudu/Abuja-Nigeria, Lois Zhiya/Lagos–Nigeria
The Chairman, Illegally- Disengaged Total E & P Nigeria limited Staff Union (IDTPPSU), Comr. Felix Adarikwu in an exclusive interview with AFRICA SECURITY INVESTIGATION correspondent, recently in Abuja said that Total E & P Nigeria Limited disengaged about two hundred and fifty-seven (257) staff illegally and yet insist compliance with the Industrial Court in making payments of salaries to victims.
The Total E & P Nigeria Limited, a France owned company within the Oil sector in Nigeria is said to have been involved in an Illegal disengagement of staff in Nigeria since August 30th, 2015 and has turned deaf ears to the yearnings of the victims for backlog payment of salaries and entitlements. The chairman of the union Comr. Felix, said the company engaged him in January 2008 alongside others as contract staff, not until the 30th of August 2015 that they were laid off illegally and yet to get their backlog salaries.
I was interviewed by Total E & P Nigeria Limited and was engaged dully alongside others. After working with them for six months they involved a Consultancy firm to take us over which by implication our salaries were not directly paid by Total again. “Shortly, before the illegal sack, we laid our hands on a document which harbours the original amount of what should be our monthly earnings. Going by the document we saw, which is now in our possession, it unfolded to us that what we were being paid was just ten
per cent (10%) of what our salaries should be. It was in the battle for ratification, that about two hundred and fifty- seven of us were laid off, illegally.
“Since the company is a France owned company, we wrote a Protest letter to the Consular General of France to Nigeria. Nothing was done about it, we proceeded to National Assembly and was summoned by the Committee on ethic privileges of the National Assembly after which nothing happened, we persisted to the National Industrial Court and judgment was passed in our favour in October 2016 mandating Total E & P Nigeria Limited to pay us all our backlogs, only to get a motion from the company seeking for Appeal”.
The judgement has gotten from an action commenced and filed on the 29th June 2016 accompanied by the statement of facts, witness statement on oath, list of witness and list of documents, claiming against the Defendants jointly and severally before the National Industrial Court of Nigeria in the Abuja Judicial Division Holden at Abuja before His Lordship the Honourable Justice E.N. Agbakoba dated 26th October 2018 got the following reliefs:
- A Declaration that the 1st Defendant is the employer of the claimants.
- A Declaration that the failure of the 1st Defendant to issue the claimants written statement containing the particulars of their employment within three (3) months of resumption of their employment is unlawful and unfair labour practice, contrary to global labour practices and international labour standards.
- A Declaration that the policy of the 1st Defendant to interview and employ employees and thereafter contract and interpose, intermediaries in the persons of the 2nd to 6th Defendant and other such entities on the employees as their employers is unlawful and unfair labour practice, contrary to global best labour practices and international labour standards.
- A Declaration that the purported “handover” from such 3rd parties to several other such intermediaries and their “rollover” from 3rd parties to several other such intermediaries who front as their employers is unlawful and unfair labour practice, contrary to global best labour practices and international labour standards.
- A Declaration that all documents purportedly issued by the 2nd -6th Defendants including employment and termination letters are all unlawful and thanks and void and of no effect whatsoever.
- A Declaration that the 1st Defendants decision to prevent the claimants from being unionized is unlawful and unfair labour practice, contrary to global best labour practices and international labour standards.
- A Declaration that the local technical Assistance Services Grid of Rates for 2013 and the conditions of Service for contract service personnel 2013 are valid and binding on the labour relationship between the 1st Defendant and the claimants.
- A Declaration that the 1st Defendant’s decision to retire from the local technical Assistance Service Grid of Rates for 2013 and the conditions of service for contract service personnel 2013 promised the claimants as a condition for not permitting their unionisation is a gross violation and breach of the terms of the employment relationship between the claimants and the 1st Defendant and also an unfair labour practice, contrary global best labour practices and international labour standards.
- A Declaration that the short payment of remuneration and nonpayment of allowances and bonuses to the claimants in accordance with the local technical Assistance services Grid of Rates for 2013 and the conditions of service for contract service personnel. 2013 is a gross violation and breach of the terms the employment relationship between the claimants and the 1st Defendant and an unfair labour practice, contrary to global best labour practices and international labour standards.
- A Declaration that the way and manner in which the employment of the claimants where purportedly terminated infers redundancy and that same amounts to wrongful and unlawful termination.An order directing the Defendants jointly and severally to pay to the claimants the sum of N5,709,868,362.00 representing damages for the shortfall in remuneration paid to them from January 2013 to September 2015 when their employment with the Defendant was wrongfully and unlawfully terminated.
- N581,928,810.00 representing damages for unpaid allowances and bonuses including particularly; leave allowances, Christmas bonus and overnight allowance from January 2013 to September 2015 when their employment with the 1st Defendant was wrongfully and unlawfully terminated.
- N3, 425,245,920.00 representing two (18) months gross remuneration as terminal benefits.
- N4,566,994,560.00 representing two (2) years gross remuneration as damages for wrongfully and unlawful termination of their employment.
- N100, 000,000,000.00 representing sundry unliquidated allowances denied the claimants throughout the course of their employment including particularly; Shock Allowance, Handshake Allowance; and the cumulative shortfall of wages and allowances paid to the claimants since the inception of their employment till December 2012 as well as general aggravated exemplary and punitive damages for unfair labour practices.
- 10% post judgement interest on the judgement sum from judgement date until final liquidation, the judge passed his judgement.
The Appellant (Total E & P Nigeria Limit) being dissatisfied with the judgement of the National Industrial Court, Abuja (the Lower Court) delivered on the 26th October 2018 by Hon. Justice E. N. Agbakoba, J., appealed on the following grounds; the lower court erred in law when it failed to give any consideration to credible evidence before the court and legal arguments canvassed by the appellant in support of its case and thereby breached the Appellant’s constitutional right to fair trial and hearing.
Second grounds, the learned trial judge erred in law in failing to hold that the action of the 1st Respondent was incompetent for lack of authorisation to institute the action on behalf of the 257 disengaged service contract personnel.
Thirdly, the learned trial judge erred in law in suo motu relying on Order 4 Rule 2 of the National Industrial Court Rules, 2007 to dispose of the Appellant’s challenge of the 1st Respondent’s authority to bring the action in a representative capacity and thereby breached the Appellant’s constitutional right to a fair hearing.
Fourth, the lower court erred in law when it held that the Appellant failed to issue letters of employment or conditions of service to the 1st Respondent and the 257 disengaged employees in breach of Section 7 of the Labour Act.
Fifth, the learned trial judge erred in law when it relied on Exhibit C6 (Local Technical Assistance Service Grid) and the oral testimony of the claimants’ Witnesses (CW1-CW5) that they worked for the Appellant under the supervision of the 2nd-6th Defendants, in holding that the 1st Respondent and the 257 disengaged employees were employed by the Appellant even in the absence of a written contract of employment issued by the Appellant.
Sixth, the lower court erred in law when it held that the 1st Respondent and the other claimants had proved their employment with the Appellant.
Seventh, the lower court erred in law when it held that the Appellant and the 2nd Respondent were co-employers of the 1st Respondent and the other disengaged service personnel under a triangular co-employment relationship.
Eight, the learned trial judge erred in law in holding that the 1st Respondent and the other service personnel were entitled to three months’ salary in lieu of notice for wrongful termination of their employment.
Ground Nine, the lower court erred in law when it proceeded to grant the declaratory reliefs sought by the 1st Respondent, particularly reliefs A, B, G, I, and L claimed in the General form of complaint and amended statement of facts.
Ground ten, the lower court erred in law in holding that the payment and acceptance of severance or payment in lieu of notice by the 1st Respondent do not preclude him from complaining of wrongful termination.
In this regard, the Court of Appeal Division in Abuja ordered Total E & P Nigeria Limited (the Appellant), to file its notice of appeal within 14 days at the National Industrial Court, Abuja over the sack of its employees. The sitting of the Court of Appeal, the case which was on Tuesday the 16th June 2020, in a three-member panel of the appellate court presided over by Justice Abdul Aboki, ordered the appellant to file their notice of appeal within 14 days. Counsel to the sacked workers who are respondents in the appeal, Mr Marx Ikongbeh did not oppose the application of the appellant to file their notice of appeal out of the time stipulated by law. However, efforts by the AFRICA SECURITY INVESTIGATION correspondents to meet with the top management of Total has been fruitless.
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News Data Inputs from Africa Security Investigation