By Godwin Egba
The protracted case between one of Nigeria’s topmost oil service companies in Port Harcourt, Cisons Nigeria Limited, and nine of its 67 disengaged workers now before a Port Harcourt high court would receive attention on June 11, 2018.
The battle ground is in the Federal High Court of Nigeria, Port-Harcourt judicial division, where the Justice, J.K Omotosho, seats. It is between nine petitioners on behalf of the entire terminated staff and the respondent, CISCON Nigeria Limited.
Motion on notice before the court is pursuant to section six of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, Sections 4 and 19 of the companies winding up rules 2001 and under the inherent jurisdiction of honorable court.
The grounds for the petition among others include termination of the affected staff, non-remittance of pension deductions from staff salaries to their respective pension administrators, non-remittance of staff cooperative deductions including non-remittance of Pay As You Earn (P.A.Y.E) tax to the relevant authorities which could not enable the workers obtain tax clearance certificate (TFC), and non-remittance of the salaries to the National Health Insurance Fund thereby denying staff access to medical services.
The petitioners stated that the company is indebted to them by way of outstanding salaries and terminal entitlements based on the current CISCON Staff Manual 2009 the sum of ₦90.9m.
The petitioners also cried out that they have put in up to nine years of their youthful lives working for the company but that they had looked up to their terminal benefits to chart a way forward after the termination of their appointments which are now unpaid.
They stated further that even by the letters of termination the company promised to pay the terminal benefits of the petitioners and other staff who were terminated but contrary to the said promise, the company failed, refused, and or neglected to pay the outstanding salary arrears and the said entitlements.
According to them, for several months running since June 2016, the Petroleum and Gas Workers Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) and the Honorable Minister for Labour and Productivity requested the management of the company to honour their obligation and promise of paying the petitioners their terminal benefits but Ciscon allegedly refused and instead management responded by closing the company.
Following the alleged refusal of the company to pay the 67 staff whose employment were their terminal and other benefits the nine petitioners jointly and by their hands wrote the Managing Director and the Board of Directors of the Company a letter dated 7th November, 2016, demanding payment of their outstanding salaries, terminal benefits and other entitlements with 21 days as required by law.
The petitioners alleged that while in their predicament, “the management is transferring the assets and equipment to another company, Shawsand Nigeria Limited”. Hearing of the Motion is June 11, 2018, even though the learned council to the petitioners, Akpoviri Michael Akatugba, declined comments on grounds that the case is now in a court of competent jurisdiction.