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Crisis Rocks LM Ericsson, as Mass Sack of Nigerian Workers Looms

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It is no news that the excruciating heat of the credit crunch is taking serious toll on many businesses in the world and that has been making some companies, out of their managerial defects to layoff their staff in an indiscriminate manner with total disregard to labour legal provisions. No doubt the operations of end-to-end telecommunications infrastructure giant, LM Ericsson in Nigeria may soon be grounded if it carries out its threat to retrench its Nigerian workers.

This is because the morale at the company with headquarters at Walter Carrington Crescent, Victoria Island in Lagos, has hit an all time low now. The workers who have vowed to resist an impending mass sack with everything in them are no longer motivated to put in their best in any way.

Consequently, they are silently protesting the highhandedness of the management of the company which earlier illegally banned them from active participation in unionism.

Huhuonline.com gathered that after Ericsson sent out a circular to members of staff that due to its current reorganisation exercise as a way to cut cost, some of them would be the way out of the company, Nigerian workers in the company could not imagine the justification for the grim news. Sources reckon that the Nigerian operation of the Swedish company has continued to yield a lot of profit for the company despite the economic meltdown that has halted economic activities all over the world. Infact, we learnt that the Nigeria operation is only one of the few operations of the company that has continued to be profitable inspite of the recession.

There are indications that the decision of the company to send local workers packing is fallout of its activities In South Africa. LM Ericsson was said to have ran at a loss in 2008 in South Africa but was unable to retrench workers as a cost cutting measure as a result of strong labour laws in South Africa. The result of its loss in South Africa is now about to be visited on Nigerian workers, as the company feels that anything goes in Nigeria as Labour Laws are hardly recognised let alone been enforced. We also gathered that as a result of protest by Nigerians working in the Company, the management decided to carry out its intention through the back doors. Local workers have been asked to resign and reapply to the company. This was vehemently rejected as it amounts to the same mass purge of the local workers by another deceptive guise. Local workers have continued to mobilise as the management seems detrimental in carrying out its intimidating mass sack threat.

Meanwhile, there are indications that the company may have flouted immigration laws and Expatriate Quota regime in its employment of expatriate staff. Huhuonline.com discovered that foreign workers hired as consultants for just a three month period end up working for the company for years. At a time, it was gathered that there were close to 300, such expatriate consultants who illegally worked for the company. Sources say that the problem is, these expatriates do not contribute as much as the local workers, they are better remunerated. The company accommodates, feeds and places them on a high salary scale, they equally use state-of the-art-official cars.

Huhuonline.com checks also have it that the management of the company has reserved a couple of positions in the company for only expatriate workers despite the fact that there are\several Nigerians better qualified to handle such positions. Hence the tension at the company is now palpable. Though, the Precision Electrical and Related Equipment Senior Staff Association (PERESSA) which is affiliated to the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria is poised for a showdown with the management of LM Ericsson. In a letter dated 30th of October 2009 and signed by T.K. Olatunji, Ag Gen. Sec, the group warned of dire consequences, should the company’s management proceed to retrench local workers in the guise of cost cutting.

However, the group requested for a meeting with the management of Ericsson but threatened to mobilise the full force of the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria for appropriate response, if the planned move is not suspended.

Information gathered at the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) for comments showed that the Commission may take actions if LM Ericsson continues to flout Nigerian laws by carrying out actions that are impossible in other countries. L.M. Ericsson is one of the leading telecommunications equipment suppliers in the world and the supplier of choice for Nigeria as most operators deploys for their services. Operators that make use of Ericsson switches and other equipments include MTN, Zain, Zoom Mobile, MTEL and a couple of others. Meanwhile, while LM Ericsson was reacting to this scandal through it Director, HR and Blair Mackenzie maintained that Ericsson like any other global corporations has had to respond to global financial crisis to remain competitive and well positioned for the future, and that Ericsson has embarked on a cost reduction and right sizing exercise and the sub-Saharan part of this adjustment is currently underway and will also affect Nigeria. As a result of this exercise there are likely to be some job losses.

It was further confirmed that the exercise would be handled with utmost sensitivity and professionalism, Ericsson has communicated openly about their structure and potential for redundancies through letters, emails, workshops and all-employee meetings since July 2009, and provided all employees with opportunity to provide feedback on the proposed restructure as well as suggestions for avoiding job losses. For those that could ultimately be affected by the redundancies, Ericsson Nigeria has consulted labour lawyers to ensure that those employees are treated and compensated fairly and in accordance with the provisions of Nigerian labour law.

It is unfortunate to see Nigerian citizens turning out to be an object of ridicule and victims of labour chastisement by foreign nationals, this is one, too many a call. Such national slap is apparently sending a signal that Nigeria is a country where rights of labour can be trampled on without recourse to justice.

However, as a good people great nation, Ministry of Labour and other stakeholders in the country need to look into these irregularities to ensure that the constitutional rights of Nigerians as it relates to labour are not flouted by any alien who would not respect local content and other rules of engagements. It is not just LM Ericsson, there are several other companies in Nigeria found culpable of a similar act. There are cases of machines and chemicals deforming people while in active service and due compensations are not given to them.

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Nembe Oil Spill From Aiteo Facility Worst I’ve Seen – Diri

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The Bayelsa State Governor, Senator Douye Diri, on Wednesday returned from visiting the oil spill site in Nembe Local Government Area of the state, describing it as the worst he had seen in his lifetime.
The OML 29 Well 1 platform, which is operated by Nigeria’s largest indigenous oil firm, Aiteo Exploration and Production Company Limited, has been spilling crude unabated into the Santa Barbara River for about one month.
An estimated two million barrels of crude has reportedly been spilled into the river, polluting the flora and fauna of the area, the governor’s spokesperson Dan Alabrah, said.
The Minister of State of Environment, Sharon Ikeazor, had said the scene of the spill was like a war zone.
Overwhelmed by the spill, Aiteo hired Halliburton’s Boots and Coots to “kill the well” by injecting cement into it. It bought the well from the Royal Dutch Shell in 2015.
As at Wednesday, the Bayelsa government said the spill that began November 5 was still ongoing.
Governor Diri said the continuous spillage has further endangered the lives of people of Nembe, Bayelsa and indeed the Niger Delta.
In a statement issued by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr Alabrah, the governor, who expressed shock over the quantity of crude that has been spilled into the environment, called on the Federal Government and operators of the oil field to immediately take action to stop it.
According to him, the prolonged oil spill into the water and air had an immediate and long term effect on the health of the inhabitants.
While assuring the people that appropriate measures would be taken to seek redress, he noted that the quest by oil firms to make money would not be at the expense of the lives of the people.
Describing fishing as the source of livelihood of the people of the area, Mr Diri noted that just as there are grazing routes, Bayelsa State has fishing routes and must be protected.
His words: “Today happens to be a very dark day for me. What we have seen, I believe, is worse than what happened in the Gulf of Mexico. In all my life, I have not seen such magnitude of oil spillage.
“Our people are endangered. Our people’s source of livelihood is endangered. I empathise and sympathise with the people of Nembe on behalf of the government and people of Bayelsa State.
The Bayelsa governor also decried the exclusion of indigenes of host communities in the running of the oil industry, saying that if indigenes were part of the operations of the oil field, they would have looked for ways to address the problem.
To ameliorate the suffering of the people, the governor directed the State Emergency Management Agency and Ministry of Health to immediately provide relief materials and healthcare services to the people.
Earlier, the chairman of Nembe Local Government Area, Hon. West Alalibo, and member representing Nembe Constituency 2 in the State House of Assembly, Edward Brigidi, appreciated the governor for embarking on an on-the-spot assessment visit to the site.

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‘Emerging Challenges May Frustrate Dev Of Gas Resources’

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Although the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) is expected to unlock gas potential in Nigeria, especially the current 206 trillion standard cubic feet proven reserves, stakeholders Wednesday said the goals might remain elusive.
Investment to unlock the series of the opportunities outlined by the country according to the stakeholders, may remain a daunting task amidst heavy levies on the sector, domestic gas pricing challenges as well as lack of necessary technology and skills set.
Coming as the price of natural gas Wednesday, tumbled further to $4.4 per MMBtu after rising close to $7, the stakeholders at the 10th Practical Nigerian Content Forum stated that without the right environment, Nigeria may miss out of the window of opportunities available through the energy transition phase.
The Senate Chairman, Local Content, Teslim Folarin at the event also insisted that the cross-sectorial local bill in the National Assembly would make existing executive orders on patronage of Nigeria goods and services a law across sectors of the economy, stressing that it won’t however scrap the NOGIC Act.
With the current high price of cooking gas, the inadequacies of gas to power plants, the experts noted that data challenges, legal framework, lack of collaboration, weak research and development, lack of technology, imposition of taxes on the gas value chain lay heavy siege to the country’s aspirations in the gas revolution.
Group Executive Director, Gas and Power at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Limited, Abdulkadir Ahmed, insisted that declining funding for fossil fuels would create challenges for existing gas resources in the country, stressing that the sector must devise a means to fund projects and also produce more with cost.
Ahmed was also concerned about the infrastructure that transports and ensures utilisation of gas, adding that a transparent and market-driven pricing remained sacrosanct.
“We can not make progress without a market-driven and transparent gas price. No one will put in money if they have no feasibility of how they will recover their cost. There won’t be any gas to process if we do not invest in upstream activities,” he said.
Managing Director, Shell Nigeria Gas, Ed Ubong stated that there was a need to build local capacity for gas and ensure that the resources are used to spur industrial development.
According to him, there was a need to support indigenous companies to thrive, adding that the gas space remained a key avenue to grow local content.
A Governing Council Member at Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB), Mina Oforiokuma said with progress being made by countries like Mozambique, Nigeria needs to learn and move fast to address bottlenecks.
Speaking on the expansion of local content across sectors, Executive Secretary of NCDMB, Simbi Wabote noted that the government may consider a local content department across ministries to develop.
Wabote said: “That’s the only way you can get benefit out of the implementation because what people forget is that NCDMB is like a department within the ministry of petroleum resources saddled with the responsibility of driving local content within the oil and gas industry and controlled by the Ministry in the same way.”
Senator Folarin noted that the government remained concerned about the development of indigenous companies, adding that the move would address inefficiencies, in the long run reduce cost of projects and build strong local companies that can compete globally.
He revealed that some of the key sectors that would be primarily targeted are power, ICT, manufacturing, agriculture and others.

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PHCCIMA Boss Lists Core Service Areas

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The 62nd President of the Port Harcourt Chamber of Commerce, Mines, Industries and Agriculture (PHCCIMA), Sir Mike Elechi said his administration shall have member oriented,  inclusive programmes and opportunities as its hallmark and guiding principles.
Elechi said this during his investiture as the PHCCIMA President in Port Harcourt during the week.
He also listed  consolidation of growth, peace, unity,  increased scope of programme dispensation and internally generated revenue as part of his core mandate to be delivered to the people.
He said that these would be achieved within the confines of PHCCIMA’s constitution and that of the Country.
The President who was  a  permanent secretary before his retirement,  pointed out that the choice of the key areas was as a result of deep reflection and wide consultation with relevant stakeholders in the society.
He said that his administration would reintroduce the monthly PHCCIMA meeting, develope a calendar of member oriented programmes and opportunities as well as trade mission travels and access for the benefit of its members.
On the issue of increased scope of programme dispensation and internally generated revenue, he said that  it would be realised by creating an atmosphere of welcome and corporate opportunity.
“Another way out among others, was engagement of various governments both state and local, with business strategies especially non oil businesses”, he said.
In his address, the Chairman of the occasion,  Chief Ferdinand Anabrabra, urged those that are yet to be registered with PHCCIMA to hurry and do so in order to meet up with the current speed of the organisation.
Anabrabra, anchored his point on the passion that the new President and his team have for the body, which will definitely pay off.
Also speaking, the former President of Nigerian Bar Association ( NBA), Hon Onueze C.J . Okocha,  said that Elechi’s whealt of experience would  enable him  do the expected.
”As a career Civil Servant and a successful businessman cum Manager and Chief Executive Officer of the Vintage Farm and Products in ElelIkwerre Local Government of the state, his administration would be successful.
The Tide gathered that the Elechi-led PHCCIMA executive would elapse in the next three years.

By: King Onunwor

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