The dream of every worker is to one day retire and enjoy the benefit that would accrue to him after his many years of active service. Every worker desires a life of ease and relaxation after retirement. National Oil (Conoil) workers always celebrate retirement because it is a dream come true. This was the norm in the company until the arrival of Otunba Mike Adenuga. His arrival at national oil marks the beginning of sorrow for the 500 odd pensioners remaining on their payroll.
The Shell Group established The Shell Pension Scheme under its original name of Shell West Africa Staff Non-contributory Pension Fund on 1st January 1952. They registered the scheme with the Ministry of Trades now Corporate Affairs Commission as a TRUST SCHEME for the company’s employees on retirement. It remained a non-contributory scheme funded solely by the Shell Group when it was in control. When the Federal Government compulsorily acquired 60% of the company in the wake of 1975 indigenization decree, the government retained the scheme.
The Shell Group Pension Scheme that Conoil inherited in 2000 is still on in Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC). It has been in existence for more than 50 years.
Conoil has not added any value to the fund since its arrival in National oil in year 2000. Mike Adenuga ignored the statutory requirement that he contributes a certain percentage of the company’s gross profit to the pension fund before declaring profit after tax.
The pension account into which Conoil never contributed a kobo since it took it over has a balance of over a billion naira (both liquid and fixed asset) in 2006 when conoil purportedly audited its account. The fund has been a source of easy and interest fee fund for Conoil that has been running it according to their whim and caprice since then.
When Mike Adenuga took over as the core investor in National Oil in 2000, he suspended the 12% annual pension increase approved by the fund since October 1994. It did not bother the man that 71.96% of Conoil pensioners are earning between N3,360 and N7,499 at a time when minimum wages in Nigeria has gone beyond N10, 000 which is now N18,000.00. Otunba Mike Adenuga did not care about Federal government directive on harmonization of fringe benefits with basic salary when calculating pensions [govt. directive of 30th Jan. 1997, 11th May 1999, and 6th July 1999]. These ridiculous earnings still remains today after 10 years of Conoil misadventure in the once vibrant company called National Oil without a kobo increase!
The pensioners took Mike Adenuga to court in 1998 to compel him to release his stranglehold on their fund since the money does not belong to his company. This will enable the pensioners distribute the balance in the fund as they deem fit after Adenuga might have added his own contribution for using the money in the fund without paying interest since the years 2000.
Adenuga agreed to settle with the pensioners without the case coming up in the open court. The pensioners made the mistake of thinking they could trust Adenuga to be true to any agreement reached. The negotiation has been going on at the Mediation Centre of the Lagos High Court for a year and half without any end in sight.
Mike Adenuga and his lawyers have been frustrating every move by the pensioners to conclude the negotiation. The court had to write two strong letters to warn the Otunba when it became obvious that all he wanted was to let the negotiation drags on indefinitely.
Ten members had died as at the last count since the negotiation started. Adenuga’s lawyers always come to court singing the same song of not being able to see the Otunba. This has been going on for more than eight months despite each party in the negotiation reaching agreement on how to disburse the balance in the fund. It is either Adenuga’s daughter is getting married or EFCC invites the man to Abuja or one excuse or the other. The Judge asked on one occasion if Adenuga had become a god that mere mortal couldn’t see.
The pensioners (many of whom have been demoralized by the never-ending negotiation) are already getting suspicious albeit erroneously that they have been sold out by their executive. Given Adenuga’s penchant for the Babangida style, their fear might not be wholly misplaced.