…As out-of-court settlement plan fails
BY IKECHUKWU NNOCHIRI
Eight hundred and sixty sacked guards of the Exxon Mobil Oil have gone back to the Supreme Court, seeking an enforcement of an Appeal Court judgment that voided their dismissal from work on the grounds that it was arbitrary, illegal and in breach of their statutory rights.
The appellate court, in its judgment, noted that the multinational company acted unjustly by summarily laying the 860 guards off their duty, without benefits, after they had worked for it for over 13 years.
Three justices of the Court of Appeal, Justice Ngolika Orji-Abadua, Justice Kuma Akaah and Justice Jean Omokri, had unanimously held that the sacked guards could not be regarded as officers of the police since the circumstances, nature, procedure and methods of their employment were not in harmony with Sections 18, 19, 20 and 21 of the Nigeria Police Act.
Consequently, the panel ordered that they should be compensated by Exxon Mobil, stressing that considering the contract of employment the workers entered into with the company, “the plaintiffs are not members of staff of the Nigeria Police, and the plaintiffs are, therefore not entitled to be called supernumerary policemen nor to wear or use police uniform or any police kit or insignia calculated to show or portray the plaintiffs as policemen.”
While defending its action, the company had insisted that the sacked officers were merely appointed as spy police and should, therefore, depend on the Nigeria Police for their entitlements.
When the matter first got to the Supreme Court on December 14, 2010, a five-man panel of justices of the apex court led by Justice Dahiru Musdapher, ordered the company to comply with the earlier judgment and settle the matter accordingly, a directive the oil firm promised to heed.
It, however, pleaded for time to enable it perfect an out-of-court settlement plan, a request that was accordingly granted.
On January 17, when the matter came up again, the sacked officers decried that nothing was done on their matter, a situation that led the apex court to summon the company to appear before it on March 22.