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, the allegation of different retirement age for Nigerians and expatriates and other sundry claims.
Yemi Aderemi (of Empower Nigeria) in a statement on the 15th of March 15 2023 said: “Pursuant to our core mandate and in the public interest, we launched a full-scale investigation with the determination to get to the bottom of the issues thrown up 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, our investigation revealed that there was no mass sack or forced retirement 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 the 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.
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.
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4. The claim that Seplat operates different retirement ages for Nigerian and expatriate staff. Again, our investigation discovered that 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 relevant 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 their implications for industrial harmony, it is our considered position that news organisations who publicise these allegations should carry out a thorough investigation to ascertain the veracity of the claims in the matter. This is in the interest of equity, fairness and justice.
6. The noncompliance 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 is an exemplary player within the country’s oil sector. The company gainfully employs hundreds of Nigerians and has left enviable footprints in our country’s oil & gas sector. The current attempt to impugn its hard-earned reputation is indeed regrettable.
8. We urge the visible and invisible powers behind the ongoing smear campaign to reflect on the fate of Nigerians in a company that continues to make meaningful contributions to the growth of our country’s economy and retrace their steps now. On our own part, we will continue to protect the integrity of Nigerians at the workplace but will not hesitate to call out individuals no matter how powerful who sponsor vile propaganda in furtherance of their selfish interests.