By Femi Aribisala
Last week, I complained that 860 Nigerian workers at ExxonMobil (Nigeria) are being treated like orphans in Nigeria, their home-country. They have fought this injustice with fortitude and resilience in the courts for 18 long years, during which 171 of them died along the way (one more since last week).
In court, ExxonMobil denied that the workers are its employees. It claimed instead that they are “SPY Police”, in the attempt to circumvent its lawful commitments to them. The Nigerian workers, on the other hand, maintained they were directly employed by ExxonMobil and, therefore, should be treated as ExxonMobil staff.
This case has gone all the way to the Supreme Court of Nigeria. In April 2018, the Supreme Court finally rejected ExxonMobil’s denials outrightly. It affirmed that the Nigerian workers are bona fide staff of ExxonMobil. Therefore, it ruled that they are entitled to every benefit applicable to other ExxonMobil personnel in other departments of the company and must be paid accordingly.
However, instead of abiding by this verdict of the apex court of Nigeria, ExxonMobil took the outrageous step of sacking 507 of the workers in one day; locking them all out of its building.
When the workers protested by picketing ExxonMobil outfits, the multinational had the audacity to take to the Industrial Court of Nigeria the same matter that had already been adjudicated by the Supreme Court. The Industrial Court also threw out ExxonMobil’s case, affirming the right of the workers to picket. Nevertheless, ExxonMobil has refused to budge.
I said last week: “This kind of arrogance by a foreign company should not be allowed to prevail in Nigeria. What is Chris Ngige, the minister of Labour and Employment doing? The message must be sent to ExxonMobil loud and clear that, as long as it is operating within the sovereignty of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, it must be subject to Nigerian laws. It cannot operate here in Nigeria as a law unto itself.”
However, the message Chris Ngige delivered to ExxonMobil loud and clear is that it does not have to be subject to Nigerian laws. It can operate here in Nigeria as a law unto itself.
Instead of fighting for the rights of the Nigerian workers in Nigeria, Chris Ngige, the minister for Labour and Employment, is fighting for the rights of ExxonMobil, a foreign multinational in Nigeria.
On the very day my article was published last week, Chris Ngige, convened a hurried meeting of the parties in the dispute. However, rather than tell ExxonMobil it has to obey the verdict of the Supreme Court, he presented a settlement package contravening the position of the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court said the Nigerian workers should not regarded as “SPY Police” but as bona fide Exxon Mobil employees. But Ngige said they should be regarded as “SPY Police.” This means they would be paid based on police or civil service structures, instead of those of an international oil company. He then gave the workers 48 hours to stop their protest before any of the so-called benefits he itemised for them can be paid.
Contrary to what has been presented in ExxonMobil newspaper advertorials and in the circular of the Ministry of Labour and Employment, the representatives of the striking workers have rejected in totality this one-sided intervention of Chris Ngige.
“It is unfortunate that a serving minister in Nigeria has joined forces with a foreign firm (Mobil) to deny Nigerians of our deserved benefits. The collaboration of the minister and Mobil is certainly that of corruption. President Buhari’s avowed stance against corruption must be brought to the fore here!”
One of the striking workers said: “Dr Ngige is not our employer nor have we applied to work in the Ministry of Labour, therefore, our benefits cannot be packaged by him or the Ministry headed by him. Our representatives haven’t signed any document because those pronounced packages by the minister are not in line with Mobil’s policy. We therefore resent, reject and discard such package by Mobil and the minister of Labour.”
“For over 30 years we have been governed by ExxonMobil policies, guidelines, rules and company laws. So, we cannot be separated by a Civil Service Rule conceived by Mobil and implemented (planned) by the Nigeria’s minister of Labour. The separation benefits as mentioned by Mobil and the minister are unacceptable to us because Mobil bluntly refused to execute the judgement of the Apex Court of Nigeria.”
This immediately raises certain fundamental questions. What exactly is the job description of a Nigerian minister of Labour and Employment? How does the honourable minister, Chris Ngige, understand the requirements of his job?
Is a Nigerian minister of Labour and Employment supposed to fight for a foreign multinational in Nigeria against the interests of Nigerian workers; or is he expected to fight for Nigerian workers against a foreign multinational? Does a Nigerian minister have the right or the power to contravene a decision of the Supreme Court of Nigeria?
These questions are rhetorical because the answers are obvious. Chris Ngige as minster of Labour and Employment must fight to protect oppressed Nigerian workers against oppressive multinationals like ExxonMobil. Chris Ngige is duty-bound to promote employment in Nigeria and not to preside over the indiscriminate dismissal of hundreds of Nigerian workers by a prejudicial company. Chris Ngige has no right whatsoever to contravene a decision of the Supreme Court of Nigeria; one that the workers fought for tooth and nail to obtain over a period of 18 years.
If Chris Ngige cannot fulfill the basic requirements of his job as minister of Labour and Employment, he should resign.
Enemy of the People
What happens to Nigerians when we come to positions of power? Why are we so quick to forget our roots? Why do we so easily betray our own people? Why do we give preferential treatment to foreigners and discriminate against our own people, Nigerians, in our own land?
Chris Ngige is an honourable man. I know people who vouch for him. They claim to know him from his earlier humble beginnings. Some claimed to have been his neighbours when he allegedly lived in 1004 estate in Victoria Island, Lagos.
We watched as the grace of God took him to the position of governor of Anambra State. We rallied to his support when he suffered persecution, even in that exalted position. When he broke ranks with his political godfather, Chris Uba, an attempt was made to kidnap and remove him from office unlawfully. A counterfeit letter of resignation from him was presented to the State legislature. We all rallied to his support on the grounds that such grand larceny should not hold in Nigeria.
Ngige went on to be one of the best governors in Nigeria. He has a legacy of populist programmes, particularly in the area of road construction. However, his stint as governor was truncated by an election tribunal that nullified his 2003 victory. Ngige appealed to the Federal Court of Appeal, but the annulment of his victory was upheld.
What happened is that Ngige became minister of Labour and Employment and, judging by his recent action with regard to the matter of ExxonMobil and its Nigerian security detail, forgot his roots.
Ngige accepted the verdict of the courts in good faith. Why can’t the same Ngige insist that ExxonMobil must accept the verdict of the Nigerian Supreme Court? What happened to the Ngige of old who was a darling of Anambrarians and Nigerians? What happened to the Ngige who the people went on to elect as senator of Anambra Central?
What happened is that Ngige became minister of Labour and Employment and, judging by his recent action with regard to the matter of ExxonMobil and its Nigerian security detail, forgot his roots.
It would appear that the honourable minister has become another Adams Oshiomhole who was an energetic president of the Nigerian Labour Congress, fighting for the rights of Nigerian workers. But when he became governor of Edo, Oshiomhole, also forgot and denied his roots. When a poor woman selling “peanuts” by the roadside appealed to him not to have her livelihood confiscated, Oshiomhole told her to “go and die.”
ExxonMobil is one of the most successful companies in the world, if not the most successful. But in Nigeria, it is notorious for maltreating its Nigerian staff. Most of them are disgruntled, but they cannot complain for fear of being sacked. Some years back, the company imposed salary cuts of 10 to 15 per cent on its workers, on the grounds that there was a decline in oil prices. Since then, it has refused to go back to the earlier salary-structure. One of the workers said to me: “You don’t ask for increment in ExxonMobil or you will be sacked.”
ExxonMobil operates an apartheid policy between its contract staff and its regular employees. On the company bus, regular employees are given priority seating. Contract staff have leprosy. They are not allowed to seat with regular employees. They cannot even enter ExxonMobil buildings before the regular employees. So many benefits are denied them.
Some worked for ExxonMobil for over 20 years as contract staff, never confirmed as regular staff so that ExxonMobil could continue to deny them the full entitlements of regular staff. With the fear of the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), which stipulates that contract staff should not be left hanging without being offered full employment after two years, ExxonMobil now has the policy of firing all its contract staff within two years. The same contract staff are then re-employed, so that on paper they are presented as new contract employees. This ensures they are not entitled to company benefits indefinitely, not even maternity leave.
ExxonMobil routinely fires its Nigerian staff without any notice. It fires some by email with immediate effect. Once fired, you are barred from the company’s offices and facilities. You are simply locked out. This is what happened to its security details. It invited them to a decoy meeting in an outside hotel. It then told them to expect an email from the company. When they came back from the meeting, they had been locked out of their stations. They were not even allowed to collect the belongings they left behind.
Then there is the discrimination between whites and blacks. They call the whites experts, pay them more with mouth-watering benefits, while the Nigerians are given second-class positions. But then the so-called experts have to rely on the Nigerians to tell them what to do.
Inside ExxonMobil, Nigerians with full status are pitched against contract-staff Nigerians in a classic policy of divide-and-rule. Outside the company, ExxonMobil relies on the Chris Ngiges of Nigeria to be its advocate in government in order to keep its Nigerian workers down.
I leave the final word to one of the striking Nigerian workers: “It is unfortunate that a serving minister in Nigeria has joined forces with a foreign firm (Mobil) to deny Nigerians of our deserved benefits. The collaboration of the minister and Mobil is certainly that of corruption. President Buhari’s avowed stance against corruption must be brought to the fore here!”
Islamic Estate Planning: Protect Your Family and Leave a Legacy
Islamic estate planning involves the distribution of your assets that serve to preserve, manage, and distribute them after death according to the principles of the Shari’ah.
According to the Islamic ordinance, those principles are significant in planning for dependents and represent an investment in the afterlife.
Islamic inheritance laws organise your wealth ownership and assets to ensure fairness and justice after your passing. Instead of leaving the tough decisions to grieving family members, you can arrange the gifting of your assets in advance. This creates a streamlined process for the distribution of the inheritance to all family members.
Islamic estate planning is essential in the life of Muslim faithful. Indeed, if you pass away as a Muslim without a proper plan for your assets, you may be breaching the bequest guidance stated in the Holy Book, which serves as an instruction manual for a Muslim’s life.
However, many are not concerned with making an inheritance plan, even though a failure to make one could trigger intense family debate and hinder the transfer of some assets to specific beneficiaries.
According to the guiding principles of Islamic estate planning, after covering the funeral expenses and debts owed by the deceased, a person may designate up to one-third of their wealth.
This discretionary giving is known as the Wasiyyah. However, there are limitations to this discretionary giving.
For example, Wasiyyah cannot be given to someone already receiving a share under the Islamic inheritance laws. The Wasiyyah is most commonly given to charity or to care for distant relatives who cannot provide for themselves.
The residual two-thirds is the Mirath and is reserved for the Islamic heirs as ordained in the Holy Book. Primary beneficiaries are those who will inherit some of your wealth, provided that they are alive and Muslim. These are your spouse, children, and parents, and they receive a fixed share of the wealth.
Secondary beneficiaries are those whose share of the inheritance is contingent on whether other primary beneficiaries are still alive. These may include siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, and other relatives. It is vital to appreciate the rights and obligations relating to an estate.
In preparing to bequeath an inheritance, it is crucial to organise your wealth in a manner that will make assets acceptable for consideration in an Islamic estate plan.
In this regard, investments should be screened for compliance with Islamic estate ethics, and investments in interest-bearing assets are disqualified.
Instead, it would help if you endeavoured to invest in increasingly popular Sukuk bonds. You should consider Mudarabah Investment accounts as substitutes to fixed deposit accounts and subscribe to a family takaful policy instead of a life insurance policy in your saving plans.
As for pension assets, you should opt for a multi-fund structure with an option to invest in Shari’ah-compliant instruments.
Zakat, the third pillar of Islam, is a compulsory giving required from every financially stable Muslim. Those who have acquired wealth are obligated to respond to people in need and give back to the community. This response could include sponsoring widows or the education students and organising in a charitable Trust as part of an Islamic estate plan.
Therefore, you must consult a professional estate planner to assist with setting up a Trust arrangement where 2.5% of your assets/wealth is set aside annually for Zakat.
Several other tools can be used to organise the transfer of assets to a specific beneficiary. They include Hiba (making gifts), Waqf (setting up an endowment or trust), Wasiyya (transfers by donation), and it is appointing a Wasi or guardian for living dependents. Getting it right requires a thorough understanding of the principles of Islamic estate planning and the various assets available to achieve compliance.
Governor Okowa’s 2023 Presidency; an Objective Analysis
By Jerome-Mario Utomi
This piece stemmed from three recent developments in the country. First is the latest argument by development minded Nigerians that the nation’s perennial leadership haemorrhage/crisis is aggregated by a successive deficiency in leadership vision and in some cases made worse by public officials’ understanding and interpretation of problems with clarity but lacking in political will to see through or implement solutions. A development that has made the nation in dire need of a system that works, a government that caters for its citizens, especially the youths, secures lives and property while bolstering the economy.
The second and very germane is the Southern Governors Forum insistence that the presidency must shift to the southern part of the country come 2023, coupled with the recent decision by the main opposition party in Nigeria, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), to zone the position of the national chairman of the party to the north.
As we know, it is a political principle embraced by major political parties in Nigeria that each time the national chairman of a political party emerges from the north, the presidential candidate of the same party, usually, emerges from the south where the likes of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State hails from.
Thirdly and most essential has to do with the fresh call by the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, Mr Ndudi Elumelu, on Mr Okowa to contest for the presidency of the country in 2023.
The Minority Leader, who spoke at the installation of Rotary Club’s 2nd President for 2021/2022 Rotary Club Year (Club of Asaba Downtown District 9141), pointed out that Governor Okowa should serve as the President of the nation so that he can replicate his achievements in massive infrastructural and human capital development in Delta State at the national level.
He stressed that Governor Okowa was endowed with the capacity and proficiency to rescue the nation from the misrule of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and reposition her to the path of peace, unity and economic prosperity.
“I must commend Governor Okowa for his selfless service and sacrifices that have led to unprecedented massive infrastructural development in our dear state as well as a better living standard for our people.
“Governor Okowa is a rare gift not only to Delta State but also to our nation Nigeria, at large. I firmly hold that he is endowed with the capacity and proficiency to serve our nation at the topmost level so that he can replicate the successes recorded in our state at the national level.
“I sincerely call on him to make him available to serve the nation again. He deserves to be the president of this country, come 2023,” Elumelu stated.
However, despite the popularity of this opinion, it will be antithetical to support a movement based on sentiment or allow sentiment to determine our actions. Therefore, in line with the Christian Holy Book, the Bible, admonished in 1 John 4; 1 that we do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
It will, for reasons, be of considerable significance to place this call under objective analysis to fundamentally help electorates make informed decisions ‘as the ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all’.
To perform this function well, it will necessitate the following posers; Is Governor Okowa capped with vital leadership capacity needed to tame the nation’s perennial ‘leadership haemorrhage/crisis aggregated by a successive deficiency in leadership vision and made worse by public official’s understanding and interpretation of problems with clarity but lacking in political will to see through or implement solutions? Has Governor Okowa truly achieved massive infrastructural and human capital development in Delta State? Has he indeed and in truth demonstrated selfless service and sacrifices as claimed by Mr Elumelu?
Again, going by Elumelu’s claim, another question would be at the federal level, are there signs of misrules on the part of the APC led federal government that calls for Okowa’s attention to reposition the nation to the path of peace, unity and economic prosperity?
Again, on May 29, 2015, amidst cheers and jubilation from the marmot crowd that attended his swearing-in ceremony at the Cenotaph in Asaba, Okowa, going by media reports, told his audience that, “As a government, we are committed to the building and consolidation of a state in which there shall be more employment opportunities, a flourishing agriculture and agribusiness sector, effective health and educational systems, renewed urban infrastructure and enhanced security and peace to bolster economic growth and development.”
Now, looking at the past six years of his administration, it will elicit the question as to how well has the Governor brought these promises to fruition? Also, at the national level, how relevant is Governor Okowa when it comes to issues of national urgent importance? As the current Governor of Delta State, what particulars can Okowa led government point at to convince Nigerians that he can effectively administer the federation?
In providing answers to these nagging questions beginning with the last question, it must be fundamentally underlined that separate from the fact that Delta State, to use the words of Governor Okowa, is a microcosm of Nigeria because she is populated by different ethnic nationalities and has had inter-ethnic conflicts/clashes, fatal boundary disputes, especially over oil-bearing land, and political tensions, a case that in my views qualifies a governor of such state to effectively lead the federation, Governor Okowa, as subsequent paragraph will show, since assumption of office on May 29, 2015, demonstrated that for the leader to distinguish himself, he has to be a shining light and as such, he should be in a position to break the retrogressive tendencies that subsist in doing what one does not wish to do.
To capture this claim well, this piece will further x-ray/classify the achievements of Governor Okowa’s administration into two.
First, achievements at the state levels which has to do with policy objectives/programmes implementation aimed at creating jobs and wealth (wealth creation and employment generation), economic diversification, the democratization of the education sector, infrastructural development, re-jigging/provision of the state’s security architecture in the state, engagement of the youths in productive enterprise, nurture of entrepreneurs and leaders, promotion of communal peace and development of a database of employment and unemployed youths for planning purposes. The second focuses on his unrelenting nation-building efforts at the federal level.
Evidence abounds that the Governor in pursuance of these objectives compressed his programmes into a five-point agenda which is encapsulated in the acronym SMART.
The SMART agenda means Strategic wealth creation projects and provision of jobs for all Deltans; Meaningful peacebuilding platforms aimed at political and social harmony; Agricultural reforms and accelerated industrialization; Relevant health and educational policies and; Transformed environment through urban renewal.
Take the wealth creation and employment generation, as an illustration, the Governor himself recently but succulently captured his achievements in this way; “we have a deliberate policy to tackle youth unemployment through skills training and entrepreneurship development programmes. I believe that the way out of the unemployment quagmire is to equip the youth with the technical know-how, vocational skills, values and resources to become self-employed, as distinct from one-off empowerment. This is what my administration has done by instituting various skills training and entrepreneurship development programmes, which include: Skills Training and Entrepreneurship Programme (STEP); Youth Agricultural Entrepreneurs Programme (YAGEP); Graduate Employment Enhancement Programme (GEEP); Rural Youth Skills Acquisition Programme (RYSA); Girls Entrepreneurship Skills Training (GEST); and Women Entrepreneurship Skills Acquisition Programme (WESAP).”
These programmes he said are trainee-centred and service-oriented. The sectors and activities covered include agriculture, agricultural value chain services, vocational skills-based microenterprises and cottage enterprises.
Furthermore, the training and mentoring processes aim beyond raising entrepreneurs to produce leaders and managers that have high levels of personal responsibility and effectiveness. I am pleased to let you know that after six years of faithful implementation of these programmes, we have trained and given business support packages to several thousands of youths.
Following the success of these interventions and other efforts in promoting technical education, Delta State was ranked the Best State in Human Capital Development in the 2017 States Peer Review by the National Competitiveness Council of Nigeria.
Also in 2020, Delta was adjudged to be the Second Least Poor State, coming only after Lagos, Nigeria’s business hub, according to the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS).
From the above observations, it is obvious that he (Okowa) in my view is a Presidential material the nation needs to exit the unemployment crisis and economic retardation. However, in order not to be accused of indulging in hasty conclusions, this piece will go beyond the Governor’s wealth creation and employment generation prowess, to x-ray his efforts in other sectors.
To Be Continued.
Jerome-Mario Utomi is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He could be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org/08032725374.
The Effects of Home Loans on the Cost of Living Post-COVID
COVID-19 has been a disaster for many people globally, one reason being the effect of the pandemic on the cost of living.
As the cost of living is rising while wages remain stagnant, it’s becoming apparent that many people are struggling to pay off their existing commitments. As a result of such obligations, more and more people seek refinancing options to lower their mortgage rates and reduce monthly expenses.
This post will cover how COVID-19 has affected home loan rates and the part it plays in the rising cost of living.
How Has COVID-19 Stressed Out The World Economies?
While it’s inevitable that no country can escape the effects of a global pandemic, some countries have weathered the storm better than others. For example, as you can see in the image above by Compare The Market Refinance Quotes, the US, Australia, and Denmark seem to be the least financially stressed of world economies, with manageable home loan rates being a significant factor. This has allowed these countries to cope with the negative effects that COVID-19 has had on the cost of living.
Other countries may be able to copy the decisions made by these governments to help restore their economies. Nevertheless, many individuals of these countries and others still find it challenging to pay their bank loans and mortgages.
How Are Home Loans Affecting The Cost Of Living Post-COVID-19?
In March 2020, many countries worldwide implemented a debt moratorium to alleviate household debt burdens due to the coronavirus pandemic. These moratoriums have already expired in many places, which raises some tough questions regarding what additional policies should be adopted to address the pandemic’s lingering effects.
With people facing the challenge of prioritizing their payments, especially when considering the rapid increase in inflation that many countries are experiencing, many have turned to various financial tools such as refinancing to get them through these difficult times.
What Is Loan Refinancing?
Loan refinancing is when you take out a new loan to replace the old one. There are many reasons why you might want to refinance your loans; you may not be happy with how much money you are spending each month on your monthly payments, or maybe you have another loan with a higher interest rate that will save you money in the long run. In these uncertain times, refinancing is becoming more popular.
However, it’s important to note that refinancing only works if you have good credit and still owe some of the original balance of your original loan. Not all types of loans can be refinanced, but here are five loan types can:
- Student loans
- Credit card balances
- Auto loans
- Various bank loans
In conclusion, the effects of home loans on the cost of living are pretty significant for many people, not just in the US but also worldwide. This has caused many to use refinancing as the cost of inflation rises.
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