Workers Day: HURIWA commends FG for protecting Nigerian employees at Seplat
*Condemns withdrawal of criminal charges against company
As Nigeria joined the rest of the world to mark International Workers Day, a human rights group- Human Rights Writers Association (HURIWA), has commended the Ministry of Interior for protecting the rights and dignity of Nigerian workers at Seplat Energy PLC.
The group commended the FG for investigating and sanctioning Seplat’s Chief Executive Officer, Roger Brown, over alleged racist practices, discrimination against Nigerian workers and the favouring of expatriate workers, by revoking his visa, work permit and resident permit.
The Minister has insisted that no Nigerian should be made to suffer such on their own soil.
HURIWA, however, frowned at the alleged withdrawal of the four-court criminal charge against Seplat Energy PLC; its CEO, Mr Roger Brown; the Board Chairman, Mr Basil Omiyi and six others in relation to the alleged breach of the Nigerian Immigration Act 2015.
In a statement marking the International Workers Day issued Monday by its National Coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko in Abuja, HURIWA held that if it was right for the UK government to put a serving Nigerian Senator, Ike Ekweremadu, through trial without bail in a “clearly bailable offence”, there was nothing wrong in trying a UK citizen for the violation of Nigerian laws.
It is recalled that the FG had in March revoked the immigration documents of Seplat’s CEO, Mr Brown, citing racist practices and a breach of Immigration Laws and Regulations.
In a letter dated March 3 and addressed to Seplat Energy, the Ministry of Interior said: “I write to inform you that the Ministry is in receipt of a petition from the Solicitor to the concerned workers and stakeholders of Seplat Energy PLC accusing Mr Rogers Thomson Brown, the CEO of the companies of various allegations.
“These accusations include racism, favouring foreign workers and discriminating against Nigerian employees. Testimony was received from several witnesses, which supported the allegations. Mr Roger T. Brown declined to attend despite two invitations, claiming to be unavailable even though we learnt he was in Abuja for other purposes at the time.
“Investigation and records in the Ministry also revealed that Mr Roger Brown was in possession of a Combined Expatriate Residence Permit and Aliens Card CERPAC that was not based on validly issued Expatriate Quota approved by the Ministry of Interior resulting to the violation of relevant Immigration Laws and Regulations. As a result of these, the Honourable Minister has determined that Mr Brown’s continued stay in Nigeria is contrary to the national interest.
“Consequently, the Ministry has withdrawn the Work Permit CERPAC, Visa, Residence Permit and all relevant documents that authorized Mr Roger Thomson Brown’s entry or stay in Nigeria.”
Consequently, on April 6, the FG acting through the Nigerian Immigration Service filed a four-count criminal charge marked FHC/AB/CR/149/2023 against the company, Mr Brown, Omiyi, and six Directors for allowing Mr Brown to accept employment as the CEO of Seplat Energy PLC without the statutory approval of the Controller-General of Immigration.
The FG equally accused them of conspiring among themselves to allow Brown, a non-Nigerian to continue to function as CEO of Seplat after withdrawal of his visa, resident, and work permits contrary to the extant provisions of the Immigration Act 2015.
Seplat, however recently announced that the FG had withdrawn and discontinued the charges.
But in its 2023 Workers Day statement, HURIWA while commending the Ministry of Interior for the thorough investigation of the allegations and for imposing appropriate sanctions on Mr Brown, it stated that nobody, whether Nigerian or foreigner, has the right to trample on the dignity and rights of Nigerian workers; more so, in a Nigerian company built by Nigerians and sustained by Nigerian oil and gas.
“We are however surprised to read about the purported withdrawal of charges against Seplat and its leadership, including Mr Roger Brown, even when he allegedly continued to function as Seplat’s CEO in clear defiance and disrespect to Nigerian government and laws.
“No Nigerian can try this in the UK where Mr Rogers comes from. This is the same country that denied a serving Nigerian Senator, three-term Deputy Senate President, and former Speaker of ECOWAS Parliament, Senator Ike Ekweremadu bail in a clearly bailable offence even after FG submitted a letter to stand as a sovereign guarantor.
HURIWA said: “We also recall that the London Metropolitan Police went as far as instigating a letter and court process in Nigeria by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), which Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court, Abuja, affirmed were used to scuttle Ekweremadu’s bail applications in the UK.
“Former Minister of Aviation, Osita Chidoka, revealed in his January post that another kidney transplant for Ekweremadu’s daughter, Sonia, scheduled for December 2023 was scuttled by the British system, which must put her through trial, not minding that she undergoes dialysis four times a week.
“The UK equally detained the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Mr Peter Obi, recently.
“Therefore, Seplat’s CEO, Mr Brown and other indicted officers of the company cannot be bigger than the Nigerian courts and government.”
Adding: “Above all, no Nigerian worker in Seplat should be subjected to further racist practices, discrimination or any form of indignities”, HURIWA stated.