- Alleges Discrimination against Nigerian Workers
By Akinwale Akintunde
A General Manager (GM) of the P & GA Department of Mobil, also known as Exxon Mobil, Mr. Paul Arinze has asked the National Industrial Court to stop his employer from going ahead with its plan to sack him.
In the suit he filed before the National Industrial Court in Lagos, the Claimant prayed the court to suspend a “Special Review” Audit by Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited, to probe the affairs of the Public and Government Affairs Department (P&GA) of the company, pending conclusion of a routine audit.
The Claimant averred that, the “Special Review” has been the all-purpose vehicle, used by the Defendant to “flush” out Nigerians from positions of authority in the company, and have them replaced by foreigners.
In his suit marked NICN/LA/659/2018, the Claimant is challenging the said audit, and calling for a review by an independent auditor.
Arinze is seeking among other declaratory reliefs, that the mode of operation of the existing Audit Team, is in breach of the rules of natural Justice and an infringement on his fundamental rights, as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution.
The Claimant seeks an order, suspending the Defendant’s Special Review process, pending conclusion of the routine audit.
The case, which was billed for mention yesterday, could not proceed as the Judge, Justice A. N Ubaka, did not sit.
The matter was consequently, adjourned until March 4, for mention.
In his statement of material facts, the Claimant avers that he filed the suit, following the irreparable harm he continues to suffer in the course of his employment, as a result of what he calls “gross violations” of the rules of natural justice by the Defendant, in the internal audit of his department.
He said that, by a letter dated April 20, 2018 signed by the Defendant’s then Area Audit Manager, and copying its Managing Director, (MD), the Defendant instituted an internal audit of its Public and Government Affairs Department, headed by him.
He said that his unit duly participated in the audit, with the belief that the audit team would operate within the defined scope, and comply with international applicable standards of best practices, Labour Laws, as well as the Constitution of Nigeria.
According to him, he realised sadly, that in the course of the audit, the Defendant repeatedly violated its defined scope, and failed to provide the Claimant with an impartial audit proceeding, adding that it had no consideration for resolution of potential conflicts of interest.
The Claimant said that time lines were constantly violated, as the audit which was billed to begin in July 2018, actually began in May 2018, and its end date which was slated for August 2018, continued into December 2018, even after the field’s exit meeting had been held in September 2018.
He said this was in a bid to “nail” him, at all cost.
He avers that when it became apparent that no significant infraction had been uncovered by audit to entrap him, the Defendant set up the “Special Review”, which he said was a “grossly irregular and hostile parallel investigation”.
He said that the rationale for this Special Review, was not communicated to his department, and its scope was inherently unlawful, having been made to cover ten years, while an ongoing audit covered only three years.
According to him, the local wing of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), wrote two letters to the Defendant when it noticed that the “Special Review” panel it usually sets up, was only geared at getting rid of Nigerian workers.
He, therefore, seeks an order, that the existing Audit Team set up to probe the affairs of his department, be recomposed and replaced with impartial and unbiased auditors, who have no conflict of interest.
He, also wants an order, for the report of the recomposed Audit Team, to be reviewed by an external and independent assessor.
Besides, the Claimant is asking for the payment of aggravated damages by the Defendant, at a quantum to be determined by the court, for the stress and trauma caused him by its discrimination.
The Defendant is yet to enter a defence, to the suit.