Hon. Justice N.C.S Ogbuanya of the National Industrial Court has ruled that the Guidelines for Release of Staff in Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry 2019, which makes it mandatory for all companies operating in oil and gas industry to seek and obtain the approval of the Minister of Petroleum Resources before releasing any worker employed by any oil operator is valid and applicable in the Nigerian Oil and Gas industry.
Justice Ogbuanya delivered the judgment in Suit No: NICN/YEN/48/2016, filed by Joseph Johnson Osayande against Shell Petroleum Development Company Of Nigeria Limited and Anor. In the suit, the Claimant sought six reliefs from the court including a declaration that the termination of the Claimant’s contract of employment w is unlawful and a breach of the terms and conditions of his employment and a declaration that the termination of his employment for no justifiable/valid reason is a violation of International Labour Organization’s Article 4 of Termination of Employment Convention C158, 1982 and International Labour best practices. The Claimant also sought an order of court setting aside the termination letter issued to the Claimant by the 2nd Defendant for being illegal.
In support of his claim, the claimant pleaded among other documents and laws relevant to his employment, the Guidelines for the Release of Staff in the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry 2019 and Copy of the Article 4 of the Termination of Employment Convention of 1982, in urging the court to declare that the termination of his employment was unlawful and a breach of the terms and conditions of his employment.
At the conclusion of the trial counsel filed their respective written addresses wherein they canvassed arguments in support of their respective position in the suit. In addition, the Honourable Court further directed counsel to file written submissions on “the extent to which the new Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) 2021, impacts on the legal status and applicability of the Guidelines on Release of Nigerian Staff in Oil & Gas Industry 2019.”
Delivering his judgment Justice Ogbuanya considered the argument of counsel on the issues raised for determination. He also considered in details recent judgments of the National Industrial court on the subject, particularly the judgement delivered by His Lordship E.A Oji in PENGASSAN v. Chevron in 2021 and Honourable Justice B.B Kanyip HPNICN in Shell v. Minister of Petroleum delivered in 2022. His Lordship held that the Guidelines for the Release of Staff in the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry 2019, being a subsidiary legislation with legislative backing is valid and applicable without recourse to the contract of employment of the parties, being a government policy.
The judgment of the honourable court was summarised as follows:
- On the issue as to the validity and applicability of the Guidelines for Release of Staff in the Nigeria Oil and Gas Industry 2019: The Guidelines on Release of Staff in Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry 2019, is valid and applicable in the instant suit, as the provisions of S.317 (2) of the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) Act 2021 saved the Guidelines, being part of the subsidiary legislations made under the Petroleum Act prior to August 16 2021, when the PIA No.123 of 2021 took effective commencement.
- On the issue as to whether this Court can, in the determination of the instant suit, applyThe International Labour Organization (ILO)’s Termination of Employment Convention (C158) of 1982: Although the ILO Convention 158 of 1982 on Termination of Employment is not ratified by Nigeria, nothing stops this Court from adopting the principles stated in its Article 4, as constituting the international labour standard and best practice on Termination of Employment. In consequence, the principles of employment termination set out under Article 4 of the ILO Convention (C158) of 1982, is applicable in this Court, and can be adopted and applied in this Court, pursuant to S.254 C (1) (f) and (h) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999(3rd Alteration Act 2010). Page 40 of 40.
- The Claimant’s Reliefs 1 and 2 succeed to the extent, that it is hereby declared that the Claimant’s employment was wrongfully terminated, on the following grounds- the employment being terminated by the 2nd Defendant who is not his employer; failure to give reason for the sudden termination of the Claimant’s employment, which is against the precepts of international labour standard and best practice, as gauged in the Art.4 of the ILO Convention on employment termination (C158) of 1982; and also for non-compliance with the requirement of Clause 4.0 of the extant Guidelines for Release of Staff in the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry 2019, by the release of the Claimant vide termination of his employment, being a Staff in the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry, where the Defendants are operators, without consent of the Minister of Petroleum Resources first sought for and obtained before such termination of the Claimant’s employment.
- The Relief 3 succeeds and is hereby granted, to the extent that the said letter of termination of the Claimant’s employment with the 1st Defendant dated 18th June 2015 (exh.C7), is hereby set aside for the reasons earlier stated for its wrongfulness.
- The Reliefs 4 and 5 succeed, only to the extent that, in view of the breaches and infringements by the 1st and 2nd Defendants in respect of the Claimant’s employment contract, which amount to acts of unfair labour practice pursuant to S.254C (1) (f) of the Constitution (as Amended), Consequential damages is to be awarded in favour of the Claimant against the Defendants. Accordingly, the sum of N50, 000, 000(fifty million naira) is here by awarded in favour of the Claimant against the 1st Defendant; The sum of N20, 000,000(twenty million naira) is hereby awarded against the 2nd Defendant in favour of the Claimant, for unlawful interference with the employment contract of the Claimant with the 1st Defendant, resulting in its wrongful termination.
- The Relief 6 is hereby discountenanced and dismissed, for being completely speculative and unfounded, there being no basis for the expected extension of the contract of employment to 2037, after the possible retirement age of 60 years in 2022, which the Claimant could not even attain.
- In line with Or.55 Rs.1, 4 & 5 of the extant Rules of this Court, the sum of N1,000,000 (one million naira) Cost is hereby awarded against each of the Defendants in favour of the Claimant.
- The sums of money awarded and payable in this Judgment shall be paid to the Claimant by the Defendants, within two (2) months of this Judgment, failing which it attracts 10% interest rate per annum until fully liquidated.