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Court orders Total E&P to pay dismissed staff N50m

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Court orders Total E&P to pay dismissed staff N50m

The National Industrial Court, Lagos Division, on Tuesday, ordered Total E&P Nig. (previously Elf Petroleum Nigeria Limited) to pay N50 million in aggravated damages to the security guards it unfairly discharged.

Justice Elizabeth Oji, a professor of law who delivered the decision on Tuesday, stated that the N50 million was for the psychological and mental damage that the firms caused the disengaged security officers.

The judge called Total E&P Nig.’s unwillingness to issue employment letters to the plaintiffs during the 15 years they worked for the corporation cruel, insensitive, and a violation of the Labour Act.

The court gave the firm 30 days to comply with the ruling or face a 20% interest penalty on the N50 million damages.

The plaintiffs, Odah Ezckiel Ogah, Adefemi Eyitayo Moses, Ogwuche Abraham, and Charles Okwori, sued for themselves and on behalf of Total E & P Nigeria Limited’s disengaged security staff, accusing the oil corporation of unfair labour practice in their suit NICN/LA/663/2016.

Transworld Security System Limited, Bemil Nigeria Limited, Halogen Security Nigeria Limited, Lack Guards Security Limited, and Kings Guards Security Limited were all named defendants with Total E&P Nigeria Limited.

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The claimants, through their lawyer, Ali Adah, had prayed the court for a declaration that the unilateral transfer of the claimants’ employment to five different companies at different times by the 1st defendant within a period of about 15 years without their consent, and the endorsement or approval of such transfer by any authorised labour officer, was illegal, unlawful, and unfair labour practice, and thus a breach of Section 10 of the Labour Act of Nigeria and international.

They also prayed for “a declaration that the refusal and neglect by the 1st defendant to issue letters of employment to the claimants despite repeated demands for the 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 1st defendant without any terminal benefit entitlement paid to them is wicked, unconstitutional, illegal, unlawful, wrongful, unfair labour practice and breach of international best practices and therefore an arrogant breach of Section 46 (1) of the Labour Act and liable under the same section.”

Total E&P argued that it was not the claimants’ employer but rather the second through sixth defendants.

However, Justice Orji ruled that the firm’s prolonged failure to pay the claimants’ terminal benefits after summarily firing them in 2014 and 2015 was “illegal, unfair labour practices, and international best practices, and therefore unconstitutional, null, and void.”

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