Forceful retirement: Ex-staff demands $40m damages from ExxonMobil

National Industrial Court
National Industrial Court

The National Industrial Court in Ikoyi, Lagos, has dismissed the objection filed by a multinational Oil company, ExxonMobil Corporation and its parent body, Mobil Producing Nigeria Limited against the $40 million suit instituted against the company by its former staff, James Nwagbogwu Ebede.

Joined as co-defendant is the Vice President and the overall executive officer of ExxonMobil Iraq Limited between 15th February, 2017 and December, 2017.

Ronald W. Romere had worked in Nigeria for so many years before being deployed in Iraq.

In a statement of fact filed before the National Industrial Court by a Lagos lawyer, Francis Chuka Agbu SAN, the ex -ExxonMobil corporation staff, Ebede stated that he worked with the company from December, 2001 to 2018 as an Engineer and that because of his consistent excellent performance, he was at various times given important responsibilities.

He said in 2015, he was deployed to Dubai, with the posting to last till December 2017, but that he was forcefully redeployed back to Nigeria and retired because he refused to carry out dishonest actions that he was being compelled to do by the manager of ExxonMobil while on assignment in the United Arab Emirates and Iran.

According to him, on his return to Nigeria, further punitive actions were taken against him leading to his forced pre-mature retirement.

Some of these actions, he said, were the company attempting to compel him to employ unqualified engineer and that on several occasions, attempt were made to compel him to sign off uncompleted and poorly executed project as completed, among others.

Consequently, Ebede is now claiming $40 million as general damages for the emotional stress he had suffered; N114,992,096 being the equivalent of 32 months salary which the defendant ought to pay him for his forceful retirement and also demanding published public apology in two daily newspapers and two international newspapers.

However, the defendants, in their preliminary objection filed before the court by Abimbola Akeredolu, SAN urged the court to decline jurisdiction to entertain the suit on the ground that the ExxonMobil company is an entity incorporated under the laws of the United States of America, saying that the Nigerian court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the matter.

Agbu, SAN, in his submission contended that the company not only conducts its business in Nigeria by mean of subsidiaries, but also operates directly in Nigeria as it held operating interest in several Oil Mining OML and therefore urged the court to dismiss the objection of the defendants.

In his ruling, the presiding Judge, R. H. Gwandu, while adjourning for hearing said “I hold that this court has the jurisdiction to adjudicate on issues contained in the claimant’s suits both by subject matter and territory, the claimant having shown sufficient cause of action against the defendant.