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Court orders Total Nigeria to pay sacked security employees N50m damages

Justice Elizabeth Oji of the Lagos Judicial Division of the National Industrial Court has ordered Total E & P Nigeria Limited (formerly Elf Petroleum Nigeria Limited) to pay disengaged security employees of the company the sum of N50 million as aggravated damage for inflicting psychological and mental torture on the claimants.
Justice Orji in her judgment described as callous and insensitive the refusal of first defendant (Total E & P Nig.) to issue the claimants employment letters for about 15 years they worked in the company in accordance with Labour Act.

According to a report by ThisDay on Thursday, the court gave Total E & P Nigeria 30 days within which to comply with the order, failure which it will attract interest of 20 percent.

The claimants, Odah Ezckiel Ogah, Adefemi Eyitayo Moses, Ogwuche Abraham, Charles Okwori (for themselves and on behalf of the disengaged security employees of Total E & P Nigeria Limited) had in suit number NICN/LA/663/2016 accused the oil company of unfair labour practice.

Joined as defendants alongside Total E& P Nigeria Limited are Transworld Security System Limited, Bemil Nigeria Limited, Halogen Security Nigeria Limited, Lack Guards Security Limited, and Kings Guards Security Limited.

The claimants, through their lawyer, Ali F. Adah, had prayed the court for a declaration that the unilateral transfer of the claimants’ employment to five different companies ( 2nd to 6th defendants) at different times by the first defendant within a period of about 15 years without their consent and the endorsement/approval of such transfer by any authorised labour officer is illegal, unlawful and unfair labour practice and therefore a breach of section 10 of the Labour Act of Nigeria and international best practices with impunity.

They also prayed for “a declaration that the refusal and neglect by the first defendant to issue letters of employment to the claimants despite repeated demands for same by the claimants without success is illegal, unlawful, unfair labour practice, a breach of international best practices and therefore, a violation of Section 7 of the Labour Act and liable under Section 21 of the same Act.

“A declaration that the conspiracy among the defendants to enslave, neglect or ill-treat the Claimants under a clandestine working condition for so many years for the first defendant without any terminal benefit entitlement paid to them is wicked, unconstitutional, illegal, wrongful, unfair labour practice and breach of international best practices, and therefore an arrogant breach of Section 46 (1) of Labour Act and liable under the same Section.

“A declaration that the conspiracy between the 1st and 2nd defendants to recruit the claimants to work for the 1st defendant and for the sole advancement of the 1st defendant’s business interest benefit without the requisite employers permit and recruiter’s license, and from which the claimants have been subjected to ill-treatment, neglect and psychological torture is unconstitutional, fraudulent, unfair labour practice and therefore a willful violation of Sections 24 and 25 of the Labour Act and under Section 47 of the same Act.”

However, the first defendant in its defence alleged that it was not the employer of the claimants but the 2nd to 6th defendants.

In her judgment, Justice Orji held that the continuous refusal by the first defendant to pay the claimants their terminal benefits after summarily downsizing them since 2014 and 2015 from its employment after many years of meritorious service was illegal, unfair labour practice and international best practices, and therefore unconstitutional, null and void.

The court held that Total failed to adduce any evidence to show that it has contract with any of 2nd to 6th defendants as to prove that they were the employers of the claimants.

The court held that the failure of the oil firm to prove that averments showed that it remains the employer of the claimants.

Consequently, the court awarded N50,000,000 as aggravated damage against Total in favour of the claimants for inflicting such untoward psychological, mental torture on the claimants.

It held that the conduct of the first defendant amounted to unfair labour practice.

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