An ex-staff at the Media and Communications unit of the United States (U.S) oil giant, ExxonMobil, Ernest Ivie Omo-Ojo, has written a petition to Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, alleging that his suspension and sack by the company in Nigeria were “Wilful and Flagrant Abuse of the country’s Regulations.”
Platforms Africa gathered that Omo-Ojo got a letter of suspension from Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited (a subsidiary of ExxonMobil) on April 12, 2019. While arbitration by the country’s Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) was ongoing between the employer and employee, Omo-Ojo received a letter terminating his employment on June 24, 2019.
Termination of employment in the Nigerian oil sector is regulated. Going by the provisions of the Guidelines for the Release of Staff in the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry, 2019, an employer that wishes to terminate the contract of an employee is required to obtain the approval of the Minister of Petroleum Resources. The application for the minister’s approval is made in writing to the Director of Petroleum Resources of the DPR.
In a letter dated July 20, 2020, entitled; “Wilful and Flagrant Abuse of DPR Regulations by ExxonMobil,” and sent through the office of the Chief of Staff, Amb. (Prof.) Agboola Ibrahim Gambari, Omo-Ojo requested for the intervention of the President.
The company’s Manager, Media and Communications, Oge Udeagha, however, said in an e-mail response to an enquiry by Platforms Africa that the company would not want to violate its principle of no comment on confidential personnel matters.
“Thank you for your inquiry. However, as a matter of practice, we do not comment on confidential personnel matters,” Udeagha said in an e-mail to this online newspaper.
Below, however, is an excerpt of the letter sighted by Platforms Africa.
This letter also seeks your Excellency’s intervention, not only as the President and Commander-In-Chief but also as the extant Minister of Petroleum.
3. Specifically, your Excellency, on 5th December 2019, DPR issued a Violation Sanction and Directive to ExxonMobil after months of investigation on my matter bordering on an alleged conflict of interest owing to my publication of a book (The Potent Force of Sponsorship) which is a faith-based mentorship manual and my quest in seeking an elective position as Vice-President of ExxonMobil Employees Multipurpose Cooperative Society.
In the said letter, DPR affirmed that my release/disengagement from service fell short of due process and, accordingly, ExxonMobil was given seven (7) days to restore my rights and privileges and proceed with my retirement effective December 31, 2019. But, rather, ExxonMobil has continued to defy the DPR directives deploying all manner of underhand tactics and taking advantage of the leadership changes in DPR to shirk in its responsibility. The 5th December 2019 letter is annexed herein and marked “C.”
4. The continuous flouting of the directives of DPR by ExxonMobil is, by extension, a defiance of the powers of your office both as President and as Honourable Minister of Petroleum; the supervisory body for DPR. It is beyond peradventure that ExxonMobil is in breach of the following DPR guidelines:
* Resolution 4.0 of the amended guidelines and procedures on the release of staff in the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry dated November 13, 2019, and signed on November 17, 2019, as can be seen in the within annexure “D”; and
* Resolution 4.1 requiring that any employer who wishes to release
a worker shall apply in writing to the DPR Director for the Minister’s
approval stating manner of staff release, reasons for the proposed
release, the compensation due to the worker and proposed
replacement of the worker.
5. Ludicrously, it is now over 200 days that ExxonMobil has been in disobedience of DPR’s directive and DPR seems frustrated as manifest in the tenure of two letters it has sent to me advising that my case is considered closed. The two letters are annexed and marked “E1” and “E2”.
6. Painfully, your Excellency, I have gone through this avoidable pain for the past fifteen (15) months. The unethical stoppage of my salary and allowances is taking a serious toll on the welfare and well-being of my family; the children’s university education cannot be paid for as planned. This has a severe psychological impact on me and my family.
7. It is worthy of note your Excellency, that you determine based on the prevailing circumstances and available facts if DPR has shirked in its responsibility as stated in its guidelines as a regulator viz-a-viz my case.
8. Your Excellency is kindly requested to intervene on this absurdity not necessarily for my sake alone, but in the overall interests of Nigerians in the employment of international oil companies operating in Nigeria. I have been pressured by many to let go because they fear bureaucratic bottlenecks will not let me have justice. I am, however, persuaded to fight on with the belief that your intervention would right this and similar wrongs in the Nigerian oil industry.