Ten staff of Standard Alliance Assurance Company have instituted a case against notable indigenous Oil and Gas Company, Midwestern Oil and Gas, before the Federal High Court, Lagos Division alleging threat to life and illegal deployment of the Nigerian Police for debt recovery assignment. Joined as co-respondents in the fundamental right enforcement suit are the Inspector General of Police and Commissioner of Police, Police Special Fraud Unit.
The affected staff are Kadiri Oladele, Dare Shoende, Austin Enajemo-Isire, Olorogun G.O.Emerhor, Chika Onwuchekwa, Olaogun Olushina Moses, Blessing Iyayi Ana, Bode Akinboye, Kadiri Ijerembe Emmanuel and Johnson Eguchukwu,
In an affidavit deposed to by Chief Financial Officer of Standard Alliance Assurance Company, Mr. Dare Shoende and filed before the court by a Lagos lawyer, Barrister Olushola Felix Abidakun, the deponents averred that unless the respondents are restrained by the court , they would continue to harass and violate the fundamental Rights of the applicants to freedom of movement, personal liberty and dignity of human person through their unlawful and unconstitutional invitation, questioning and threatening arrest and detention thereby subjecting them to mental torture.
The applicants, while demanding for compensation of N5million for wrongful violation of their fundamental right to date by the respondents, urged the court to declare that the Police action of embarking on debt recovery for Midwestern Oil and Gas limited is totally outside the Force’s scope of duties as provided for under section 4 of the Police Act and therefore, illegal, unconstitutional and tantamount to gross misconduct.
The applicants are also seeking the order of the court restraining the respondents from further intimidation.
Tracing the genesis of their ordeal in the hands of the respondents, the deponents averred that sometimes in February 2012, Standard Alliance Assurance Company introduced a staff Gratuity scheme for the establishment of fund for the provision of benefits for Midwestern Oil and Gas permanent employees for which a Policy document was issued in favour of Midwestern Oil & Gas Company dated 25th of September, 2012 for an initial period of one year but renewable every year.
They averred further that on 25th of September, 2017, Standard Alliance Assurance Company received a letter from the Oil Company of notice of discontinuance of the said policy with effect from 30th of September, 2017 and demanded for a refund of all monies accrued to it. They said as at 25th September, 2017 when the policy was discontinued, the total money accrued to the company was N719, 234, 114.84.
A settlement meeting was held where the Insurance company was given proposed settlement schedule on how to refund all the monies due and payable to the Oil company, consequent upon which the Standard Alliance paid a total sum of N139,904,639.36, to date; leaving an outstanding balance in the sum of N579,329,475.51
However, contrary to the policy document signed by the parties and settlement arrangement, the Oil company and the Commissioner of Police Special Fraud Unit have been harassing, intimidating and threatening the ten staff of the Insurance company on a purely civil and contractual obligation between two companies.
In particular, the deponents averred that the Commissioner of Police Special Fraud Unit has written several invitation letters to the applicants as well as threatening further arrest and detention if they failed to settle the outstanding indebtedness to the Oil Company.
However in a counter affidavit sworn to by a legal officer of Midwestern Oil and Gas limited, Rotimi Adejoorin, the company, while denying almost all the depositions of the applicants, alleged that the total money outstanding in the scheme was N730, 514,791.60 and all entreaties and demand of the company with respect to payment of the money were not responded to.
He averred that sequel to this development, Midwestern Oil and Gas limited lodged a petition against Standard Alliance Plc on the Gratuity scheme fraud perpetuated against it in the sum of N730,514,791.60 to the Commissioner of Police, Special Fraud Unit to investigate the fraudulent activities of the Standard Alliance as it relates to its intention to defraud.
Adejoorin averred further that Police has power and authority under the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to invite the applicants while considering the merit or otherwise of the petition of the company.
The Midwestern Oil and Gas legal representative then urged the court in the interest of justice not to grant the applicants’ reliefs.
The presiding judge, Justice Saliu Saidu, has adjourned for the hearing of the case.