Tayo Busayo, Abuja
DAILY COURIER – A Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), Empower Nigeria, has decried the spate of media attacks and image-smudging comments against the Chief Executive Officer, Seplat Energy Plc, Mr Roger Brown, bordering on claims of engaging in anti-Nigerian workers’ actions.
The group also raised concern over the advert effect on the foremost Nigerian energy company which is dually listed on the Nigerian Exchange Limited and the London Stock Exchange.
In a statement entitled, Allegations Against Seplat, Roger Brown (CEO): Between Facts and Fiction” signed by Yemi Aderemi, and made available to THEWILL, Empower Nigeria said it deemed it fit and proper to wade into the matter because of its commitment to protection and enhancement of civil liberties.
The group said its decision to take the course of action was borne out of the truth that its investigations into the matter had revealed following its stand to get to the root of the matter.
It further noted that it pursued the matter in public interest bearing in mind that Seplat is a public quoted company with investors from outside and within the country and whose business provides jobs for hundreds of Nigerians and foreigners.
The statement read, “Empower Nigeria, a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) dedicated to the protection and enhancement of civil liberties deems it fit and proper to wade into allegations against Roger Brown, the Chief Executive Officer of Seplat bordering on claims of forced resignations and sacking of Nigerian staff based on discriminatory policies, alleged enforcement of manipulative ranking scheme in the company, allegation of different retirement age for Nigerians and expatriates and other sundry claims.”
Empower Nigeria further presented its findings on specific allegations levelled against Seplat and its CEO by an interest group which claimed to be employees of the company.
“Pursuant to our core mandate and in the public interest, we launched an investigation with the determination to get to the bottom of the issues thrown by these allegations and in the process, unveil the truth. The averments that we make below are therefore a product of our thorough investigation.
“1. The claim of forced resignations and sacking of Nigerian staff based on discriminatory policies. As against this claim,there was no mass sack or forced retirements of Nigerians at Seplat with Roger Brown as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO).
“The true state of affairs is that between 2020 and 2022, eight Nigerian staff of the company voluntarily resigned or opted to take early retirement in the exercise of their rights as spelt out and protected by the law. Their decision was conveyed to the management of the company in writing via official channels. Seplat paid the affected staff generous end of service benefits and thereafter made appropriate notifications to NUPRC in accordance with Notification schedule as per their exit.
“2. Allegation of enforcement of manipulative ranking scheme. We found out that this allegation is not supported by facts but is a product of a hunting expedition. Arising from the observations and input made by the staff on the need to review the former 5-point ranking system which the staff considered to limit opportunities especially around the 75% cut off mark required for promotion, management reviewed and replaced it with a 3-point ranking scheme.
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“3. The aim of the 3-point scheme (Outstanding Strong and Average) is to ensure that staff rewards are tied to results which are transparent and verifiable. More importantly,it laid to rest staff complaints about the 5-point system which they believe limited opportunities for promotion.
“The claim that the Average rating applied only to Nigerian staff is untrue as out of the 5% of staff (24 persons) ranked Average, the number included an expatriate. This is without prejudice to the fact that expatriates constitute a small part of the entire workforce of over 500 workers in the company.
“4. The claim that Seplat operates a different retirement age for Nigerian and expatriate staff. Again this allegation is false and a disingenuous ploy to sow seeds of discord among the staff of the company. The retirement policy of the company is not discriminatory but is based on the laws of Nigeria stipulating that all employees working in Nigeria both local and expatriate retire at 60 years. This has been the practice in Seplat since it commenced operations.
“5. Given the delicate nature of these claims and its implications for industrial harmony, it is our considered position that news organisations who publicise these allegations should carry out thorough investigation to ascertain the veracity of the claims in matter. This is in the interest of equity, fairness and justice.
“6. The non-compliance with this basic tenet before exposing Seplat to media trial while it achieves the aim of the sponsors of this orchestrated smear campaign does grave injustice to the noble profession of journalism.
“7. Seplat has been an exemplary players within the country’s oil sector. The current attempt to impugn it hard earned reputation is indeed regrettable.”
It could be recalled that in his comment on the company’s 2022 impressive annual report, Brown had expressed optimism over the resolution of the Seplat/Mobil deal imbroglio which he said the Nigerian government was yet to conclude.