Controversies are trailing the recent disengagement of workers by the Nigerian Embassy in Washington. The local staff accused the mission of retaining non-Nigerian employees at the expense of those who are of Nigerian Nationality.
In the same vein, workers affected in the retrenchment are also alleging that the decision to lay them off was arbitrary, as the Embassy had no plans to pay their gratuity and other severance benefits.
But speaking with journalists, senior officials of the Embassy said that the disengagement of workers followed due process as it was approved by Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Abuja.
The officials also pointed that the allegation that there was no prior notice to the disengaged workers was not true, saying they actually agreed to the arrangement since February 2017.
They said the workers were laid off due to some ongoing rationalization of workers at the Embassy.
The officials also that plans are ongoing to ensure that sacked workers are paid their entitlement and gratuity, as the foreign affairs ministry has approved payment.
One of the officials said: “In February 2017, there was a decision to disengage some of the local staff.
“However, they pleaded to an arrangement to be on contract for another one year, which lapsed in February 2018. The ministry from Abuja approved their disengagement.
“As I am talking to you, we have received approval from Abuja to pay their benefits and they would be paid very soon. It is true that some of them have put in up to 30 years of service.
“They were engaged on contracts and it is the decision of the government to either continue to renew their contract or to terminate it if their services are no longer needed.
“Some whose contracts were terminated in 2013 were not paid in full but we are working out their benefits to make sure that those whose appointments were terminated receive their full benefits.
“It is also not true that they were arbitrarily disengaged; they were aware of the contract and they signed on to it since last year”.
It was gathered that the Mission had several disagreements with the local workers over non-payment of salaries spanning several months in 2017, which saw some workers embarking on work to rule that disrupted consular services before they were paid following approval by Nigeria’s ministry of foreign affairs.