ExxonMobil, PENGASSAN agree to resolve dispute

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  • As Court orders forfeiture of N449m found in BDC shop

The Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria and a subsidiary of United States-based ExxonMobil Corporation, Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited, have reached an agreement to end a dispute over the sacking of some employees.

This is coming a week after Mobil Producing Nigeria Branch of PENGASSAN rejected a directive from the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, that its industrial action should be suspended.

The oil workers said they were protesting the alleged refusal of the oil major to honour an agreement that it would review the sacking of 83 employees in December and that none of the workers that participated in a protest that month would be sanctioned for their actions.

The dispute took a turn for the worse on Monday as the union extended its industrial action to other international oil companies operating in the country by embarking on a three-day warning strike, in sympathy with striking employees of the local subsidiary of ExxonMobil.

Our correspondent, however, gathered that PENGASSAN and Mobil reached an agreement on Thursday and were to sign a communique to that effect last night.

“They couldn’t sign because they had some misunderstanding regarding the wording of the communique. But basically they have agreed; so, it is just for them to firm up that agreement in terms of how it will be in the communique,” the Chairman, PENGASSAN and NUPENG PIB Committee, Mr. Chika Onuegbu, said in a telephone interview.

Stressing that both parties had agreed to resolve the dispute amicably, he added, “The moment they agree on the actual wording of the communique, they will sign it. Technically, the matter has been resolved. They have technically suspended all actions.”

In the meantime, the Federal High Court in Lagos on Friday ordered the final forfeiture of the sum of N449,597,000 found in an abandoned Bureau de Change shop in Victoria Island, Lagos by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

The forfeiture order was made by Justice Rilawan Aikawa following a motion on notice taken before him by the anti-graft agency.

The judge ordered that the funds should be forfeited to the Federal Government as no one came forward to claim it.

The judge had earlier on April 19 ordered the temporary forfeiture of the money and adjourned till Friday for one Mohammed Tauheed, who was joined as respondent in the suit, and any other interested party to appear before him to give reasons why the money should be finally forfeited to the Federal Government.

On Friday, counsel for the EFCC, Idris Mohammed, told the judge that the interim order of April 19 had been advertised in the newspaper on May 11, so as to bring the case to the notice of Tauheed any interested party.

He added that apart from the newspaper publication, Tauheed was also served with the motion on notice.

He urged the judge to order the final forfeiture of the money since neither Tauheed nor anyone else came forward to claim it.

Justice Aikawa, in a short ruling, granted the application.

The judge held, “This court ordered, among others, the respondent (Tauheed) and any other interested party to show cause, within 14 days, why the interim forfeiture of N449,597,000 should not be made final. As far as my record shows, neither the respondent nor any other interested party has filed any affidavit or any other process to show cause why the interim order should not be made final.

“In the instant case, the respondent has, additionally, not filed any process in response to the motion on notice. In the circumstances, I have no option but to grant the application as prayed.

“Accordingly, I hereby ordered that the sum of N449,597,000 found in possession of the respondent, which sum is reasonably suspected to be proceeds of an unlawful activity, be finally forfeited to the Federal Government.”

An investigator with the EFCC, Moses Awolusi, had, in an affidavit filed before the judge, stated that operatives of the anti-graft agency found the N449,597,000 on April 7, 2017 in several “Ghana Must Go” sacks in a shop numbered LS64, located on at Legico Shopping Plaza, at Victoria island, Lagos.

He said the EFCC found out that the shop had not been opened for two years, adding that the anti-graft agency recovered the money after investigating intelligence information received on Tauheed.

According to the investigator, Tauheed allegedly conspired with the owner of the abandoned shop to launder the money.

Awolusi said Tauheed had earlier been brought to the EFCC office by the Chairman and Vice-Chairman of Legico shopping Plaza, Mr. Sulaiman Daba and Alhaji Ishaq Ayandiran, respectively.

He said during the visit, Tauheed told the anti-graft agency that he received the money in cash from a serving government official, whose name he refused to disclose “for security reasons.”

He said Tauheed, in the presence of his lawyer, later agreed to return the money to the Federal Government, which is the rightful owner of the funds strongly suspected to be proceeds of criminal activities of the unnamed serving government official.

The EFCC said it would be in the interest of justice for the court to order the permanent forfeiture of the money to the Federal Government.

Punch

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