Mr Paul Arinze, an official of Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited, on Monday, asked a National Industrial Court in Lagos, to suspend a “Special Review Audit” that is probing the affairs of the Public and Government Affairs Department (P&GA) of the company.
Arinze, General Manager, (GM) of the P & GA Department of Mobil, also known as Exxon Mobil, averred that the “Special Review” was being used to “flush” out Nigerians from positions in the company, and have them replaced by foreigners.
In his suit marked NICN/LA/659/2018, the claimant challenged the said audit and called for a review by an independent auditor.
The official is also seeking among other declaratory reliefs, that the mode of operation of the existing Audit Team is in breach of the rules of natural Justice and an infringement on his fundamental rights as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution.
Arinze urged the court to give an order to suspend the defendant’s Special Review process, pending conclusion of the routine audit.
The case which was billed for mention on Monday, could not proceed as the judge, Justice A. N Ubaka did not sit.
The matter was consequently, adjourned until March 4, for mention.
In his statement of material facts, claimant avers that he filed the suit, following the irreparable harm he continues to suffer in the course of his employment, as a result of what he calls “gross violations” of the rules of natural justice by the defendant, in the internal audit of his department.
He said that by a letter dated April 20, 2018, signed by the defendant’s then Area Audit Manager, and which was copied to its Managing Director, (MD), the defendant instituted an internal audit of its Public and Government Affairs Department, headed by him.
He said that his unit duly participated in the audit with the belief that the audit team would operate within defined scope, and comply with international applicable standards of best practices, Labour Laws, as well as the Constitution of Nigeria.
According to him, he realized sadly, that in the course of the audit, the defendant repeatedly violated its defined scope, and failed to provide the claimant with an impartial audit proceedings, adding that it had no consideration for resolution of potential conflicts of interest.
The Claimant said that time lines were constantly violated, as the audit which was billed to begin on July 2018, actually beganion May 2018, and its end date which was slated for August 2018, continued into December 2018, even after the field’s exit meeting had been held on September 2018.
He said this was in a bid to “nail” him at all cost.
Arinze further averred that when it became apparent that no significant infraction had been uncovered by audit to entrap him, the defendant set up the “Special Review”, which he said was a “grossly irregular and hostile parallel investigation”.
He said that the rationale for this Special Review, was not communicated to his department, and its scope was inherently unlawful, having been made to cover ten years while an ongoing audit covered only three years.
According to him, the local wing of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) wrote two letters to the defendant when it noticed that the “Special Review” panel it usually sets up, was only geared at getting rid of Nigerian workers.
The Claimant said that he was apprehensive that the so called audit and sudden Special Review were scripts leading to an ultimate termination of his appointment.
According to him, the company had used similar strategy to end the careers of some Nigerian contemporaries in other departments, and their replacements with expatriates
The claimant averred that he subsequently sent an email to the defendant’s Managing Director on Nov.10, 2018, pointing out the breaches in the audit and special review, and requesting a re -composition of the audit team, to bring in unbiased auditors with no conflict of interest.
Arinze said that he also requested for the suspension of the special review, pending conclusion of the audit.
According to the claimant, his requests was ignored, as the defendant’s MD expressly ordered that both the audit and special review would proceed, in spite of all reported breaches.
He, therefore, seeks an order, that the existing Audit Team set up to probe the affairs of his department, be recomposed and replaced with impartial and unbiased auditors who have no conflict of interest.
The official also wants an order for the report of the recomposed Audit Team to be reviewed by an external and independent assessor.
Specifically, the claimant is asking for the payment of aggravated damages by the defendant at a quantum to be determined by the court, for the stress and trauma caused him by its discrimination.
The defendant is yet to enter a defence to the suit.