By Olusola Adeoye
Despite denying plans to embark on a mass retrenchment of its workers, the top management of the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas company, NLNG has met to ratify the list of no fewer than 120 employees to be eased out of the company soon, according to a report.
Specifically, it was gathered that the Talent Council of the gas company, made up of the managing director, Tony Attah; his deputy and the general managers, met on Thursday to ratify the sack list allegedly compiled by the organisational manager, Nath Obioha.
A reliable source in the company, who spoke with newsmen on Saturday, said despite the strident denial of the management of plans to sack some of the workers, the panel saddled with the task continued to meet to conclude the plans.
NLNG is a joint gas initiative of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and oil giants – Shell, Total and Eni – which began formal operation in 1999.
A close source in the company had said that tension had continued to rise among the workers as “none of us is unsure who could be affected by this exercise.”
About two weeks ago, it was reported that the NLNG had commenced moves to fire at least 10 per cent of its about 1,200 workers under a programme it termed as ‘realignment to win’.
The workers were directed to reapply for their jobs, specifying three positions they would like to be considered for in the re-organisation.
They were however told to note that the company was not under any compulsion to fix them in the offices they had indicated in their reapplication letter.
One of the staff members had wondered why NLNG would forge ahead with a plan to reduce its workforce when the gas company “remains one of the most profitable companies in Africa.”
He added, “It is indefensible on all parameters. How do you justify the sacking of workers in a company that made a profit of over $2bn in 2018? It could be justified if the company is in distress, but this is not so.
“It is just a ploy to throw over 100 people into the labour market when the nation’s economy is in such a parlous situation. And these are direct workers, not those seconded from the joint venture partners.”
But two days after the publication, Attah had debunked the report, but failed to deny the plans to lay off some of the workers.
Attah had said in his internal memo titled ‘RTW in the media’, explained that the realignment was to transform the company “in order to remain competitive in the global energy business.”
He added that the initiative had led to the creation of the positions of two new general managers and seven managers.
“He did not deny the plan to sack; he only said the exercise was to reposition the company. It beats one to hear the MD justifying such illogical move,” one of the workers told newsmen.
“The same Nath Obioha embarked on such realignment as a Shell worker in Shell Gabon. After the realignment, Shell Gabon entered into distress and had to be sold by Shell. Is that what they want to achieve here also? Can you imagine that Obioha’s appointment did not even pass through the board?”
The source alleged that the sack letters might be distributed this week as the Talent Council had ratified the list.
“They already deliberated and approved the list. The placements have been done. The letters are ready and any moment from now, those affected will get to know when the list is released next (this) week.
“It is unfortunate that this is happening when NLNG is concluding its Final Investment Decision on its Train 7,” the source added.