A constitutional lawyer, Barrister Temilolu Adamolekun, has filed a suit before a Federal High Court in Lagos, challenging the constitutionality of Regulation 15A of the Petroleum and the guidelines for the release of staff in the Nigerian Oil and Gas industry.
Mr Adamolekun has also filed a motion on notice accompanied the originating summons, seeking an order of interlocutory injunction of the court directing the defendants to suspend the enforcement of the provision of regulation 15A of the Petroleum Amendment of regulation 1988 and the guidelines for the release of staff in the Nigerian oil and gas industry pending the determination of the substantive suit.
Joined as co-defendants in the suit are the Honourable Minister, Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Department of Petroleum Resources and the Attorney General of the Federation.
In an affidavit in support of the suit sworn to by Mr Adamolekun, the legal practitioner averred that Regulation 15A of the Petroleum (Drilling and Production) (Amendment) Regulations1988 provides for that the holder of Oil Mining Lease, licence or permit issued under the Petroleum Act or regulations made or any person registered to provide any services in relation thereto, shall not remove any worker from his employment except in accordance with the guidelines that may be specified from time to time by the Minister.
According to the guideline, staff release means the removal of a worker in a manner that permanently separate the worker from the employer, instances of staff release shall include the following- dismissal, retirement, termination, redundancy, release on medical grounds, resignation, death and abandonment of duty post.
However, pursuant to the aforesaid regulation, the Minister of Petroleum and the Department of Petroleum Resources codified the guidelines for the release of staff for the companies with oil licences, permits or those registered to provide any services in relation to the Nigerian Oil and Gas industry, 2019.
“Any employer who wishes to release a worker shall apply in writing to the Director for the Minister’s approval stating the manner of staff release, the reasons for the proposed release, the compensation due to the worker, and any proposed replacement for the worker. The application shall contain a copy of any document relevant to the worker’s employment including the employer’s condition of service as defined under these guidelines
Where the employer fails to submit any required information to the Department of Petroleum Resources, such application for staff release shall not be eligible for the minister’s approval.”
Mr Adamolekun contended that the Regulation and the Guidelines are inconsistent with relevant provisions of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (As Amended)
Section 9 of the Petroleum Act laws of the Federation of Nigeria CAP P10 2004, pursuant to which the Regulation and the Guideline were purportedly made, does not permit the Minister of Petroleum to make such regulation and Department of Petroleum Resources such Guideline.
In the wake of the dreaded COVIC-19 Pandemic, there is sudden crash in the crude oil prices worldwide and a lot of companies particularly in the oil industry are struggling and even oil producing countries are hit by the economic realities. Several companies are taking major decisions such as downsizing their staff strength to enable them to survive these trying times.
The petroleum minister and the Department of Petroleum Resources have made Regulations and Guidelines that are outside their powers, to limit the right of employers who have Oil Mining Licence, notwithstanding the contract of employment between the employer and the employee. The guidelines also prescribe a fine of $250,000 against any company that contravenes the guidelines in releasing his worker.
Mr Adamolekun further averred that the Minister of Petroleum and the Department of Petroleum Resources are not the national assembly that is bestowed with the powers to make laws and are not the National Industrial Court that has jurisdiction over matters relating to employer and employees.
Consequently, he urged the court that It will be in the interest of justice and the doctrine of separation of powers for the court to order the defendants to retract the unconstitutional parts of the Regulations cum Guidelines.