Can you imagine being forced to share an office with your boss who brings his dog on a daily basis? Imagine further that you are made to “take care” of the dog when your boss goes out and you are sometime told that the dog is more intelligent than you? If this sounds stranger than fiction, consider being fired from work for soliciting humanitarian assistance for victims of a brutal attack.
These may real like fiction, but were the experience of a Nigerian lady working in a Nigerian-based foreign company until she was sacked some months ago. Abigail Kakiyes alleged that she was a victim of racist and gender victimization from her expatriate bosses who did not seem to like her guts and who finally found an excuse to kick her out of the company after a humanitarian gesture to victims of the at Dogon Nahawa in Plateau State where about 400 people mostly women and children were massacred sometime back. She narrated her ordeal to Saturday Vanguard amid tears:
“I voluntarily returned to my homeland in 2008 after a short course in the UK with a passion and strong determination to be a positive agent of change adding value to the society. In August 2009, I was employed as secretary and the only female staff of an expartriate-owned company under the supervision of a french expatriate.
It was a new project, setting up a warehouse for a Chinese client. We worked tirelessly from dusk to dawn to meet the proposed deadline. Unfortunately, there was an internal problem of fraud with one of our colleagues who threatened and demanded a huge sum from one of our contractors.
Without hesitation, I intervened to prevent the illegal transaction, saving the company a loss. Shortly after that, our supervising manager was replaced with a young french expatriate (name withheld) who was less than 25 years old. He officially resumed in Kano branch on December 15, 2009 and the Kano team warmly received him with high expectations.
“In a very short time, he made the work place environment most unbearable for everyone, employing the tactics of bullying, victimization, public harassment followed by strong racist remarks evident by the following series of events: On resumption, he complained bitterly about pictures of the then President and the then State Governor which were hung in the branch Manager’s office by his predecessor.
“As if this was not enough, in creating new structural changes to his taste, he designated me to share same office with him (my desk facing his desk) and everyday, he would officially resume with his dog named Rambo inside the office we both shared.
I was sternly instructed to watch over his animal and to make sure it does not leave the office when he is out on an assignment. On several occasions, he made me to purchase food for himself and his dog.
He severally remarked openly that the dog is far intelligent than his staff and can run the branch successfully.
“Despite my diligence, hard work and loyalty, he severally referred to me, my colleagues and Nigerians generally as “morons” calling me “silly brain” at one time and I complained.
He stated that he never makes mistakes and that the company brought him from Paris to manage Kano branch because no one is as intelligent or capable for the position. He constantly exhibited very hot temper and readily starts up fights with colleagues and even company contractors.
At every opportunity or slightest error, he indiscriminately uses the “F” word to refer to Nigeria and Nigerians. We were constantly bullied and daily reminded that we would be fired at the snap of his fingers as there is high unemployment rate in Nigeria.
“He constantly embarrasses and interrupts my official and social interactions with fellow colleagues. At one time, he banned me from the accountant’s office and the adjoining warehouse where my colleagues worked, instructing me to talk to myself and not to my colleagues. He also openly used the term ‘black monkeys’ at workers. In fact, a contractor once complained in writing about the use of this language at his laborers who were indigenes of Kano assigned to the warehouse.
“He also once summoned the management of the security company guarding our warehouse premises to sack with immediate effect an old man who served as a driver for fetching water in our compound. Young boys working as laborers were instantly sacked for staring his way. My French boss finally issued me a query accusing me of inability to interact among coworkers, arrogance and failure to follow even recorded direction of minutes of meeting.
I replied his cooked up query, exposing his behaviour to the management and shortly after, a team of senior Staff union members within the organization visited Kano to investigate the issue. They were too scared to enter the manager’s office which I shared because of the dog .
“Despite this, the management issued me a warning letter and subsequently instructed my transfer to the Head Office in Lagos as Customer Services Assistant Manager (Groupage Department). The Nigerian Management assigned me to Lagos while the manager was promoted to manage the group’s branches in both Kano and FCT Abuja. Very traumatized and abused, I resumed at my new designation as customer service assistant manager at Burma Road, Apapa. Lagos. There, I worked tirelessly, signing in daily to work before 6:30am.
“I had thought my trouble was over when I was transferred to Lagos, but little did I know that other challenges would rear their heads. One of the difficult challenges I faced in groupage department, was alienation by some colleagues who forcefully collected bribe from importers or agents before releasing their goods to them. It had become a habit to them and several attempts to stop this malpractice was laughed at despite bitter complaints from customers over the very outrageous local handling charges and exploitation by staff. I reported to my head and supervising manager and on March 19, this year, I was promoted, given a higher salary and a job training opportunity.
“As I prepared to commence my annual leave which was approved for the 8th of June, 2012, an idea was suddenly conceived in my heart to use my leave allowance to touch the lives of widows and orphans of Dogonahawa village of Jos, Plateau State through the giving of relief materials such as food items, cloths, detergent, etc. You will remember that they were helpless victims of a gruesome genocide in the year 2010 where men, women and children were brutally massacred at dawn. I was very excited and passionate about this cause and without a premonition of possible negative reactions, informed a few close colleagues and selected management personnel about my plan via our official e-mail. I saw it as a platform for corporate social responsibility by the company which had been in Nigeria for over 30 years and was actively involved in community charity in its Francophone African subsidiaries but never in Nigeria where millions of dollar profit is realized weekly.
“My email contained a brief introduction of Plateau State, facts about what had happened to the Dogonahawa community in the year 2010 and a clarion call to volunteer and help the widows and orphans of the community. However, this did not go down well with my bosses as I was summoned by the managing director and accused of using the company’s intranet for social networking. I was denied any opportunity to explain and the MD unreservedly hurled insults at me saying I was,dressed like a queen yet I’m a nobody. It was a Friday and I was in African attire. He said I have no brains in my head, further questioning my designation as assistant manager before ordering me out of his presence. I was later issued a query to answer within 48 hours to which I responded apologetically, explaining my true and honest intentions.
I eventually proceeded on my leave and still continued to Jos for the community project.
“On resumption after my leave, I was placed on a six weeks suspension without salary effective 26th July, 2012 – 6th September, 2012 which was contrary to the employees contract agreement. So I forwarded a letter requesting some form of explanation making reference to Article 43 Sub section B of the employee handbook which clearly stipulates a maximum of two weeks (14 days) for cases of suspension from employment without pay or indefinite suspension as in the case of serious gross misconduct like fraud. I did not get any response to my enquiry but nonetheless, served the suspension and resumed in the early hours of 6th September, 2012. That same day, I was summoned to head office and issued a letter terminating my appointment.
It must be stated that the “offence” which according to management was using the intranet for a social interaction was a surprise because the same mail had always been used by a large number of colleagues for political comments, religious and other social networking and communication. There was even an internal memo warning those engaged in pornography during official hours via the same intranet, yet no disciplinary action was executed. I believe I was victimized and sacked because I suggested a community goodwill gesture to the management. I am crying out to the Federal Government, the National Assembly to look into my case. I demand an apology from the company for victimizing and traumatizing me while working with them.”
Although attempts to get the reaction from the company to the allegations were unsuccessful as they refused to respond to enquiries from Saturday Vanguard, condemnations have trailed the treatment meted to her by the company. Chairperson of the Federation of International Female Lawyers, FIDA in Plateau State, Mrs Ladi Madaki condemned the treatment noting that the psychological effect of what she went through was better imagined. “Imagine the trauma, the humiliation and the psychological violence of it”, she noted.
Another FIDA member, Mary Izang frowned at the racist behavior by expatriates against Nigerians in their own country, saying this should be checked. She called on the relevant agencies to investigate Abigail’s allegations, adding that she should not be allowed to suffer the denial of her rights unchecked. Saturday Vanguard learnt that the matter had been reported to some relevant agencies.