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Nigerian Demands N80Million In Damages From Mercy Corps Over Wrongful Termination Of Appointment, Gives Aid Organisation 3-Day Ultimatum

October 5, 2022

This was made known in a letter sent by his lawyer, John Ochogwu, Esq to the group’s country director.

A Nigerian man, identified as Raymond Oloche Abogonye has written to Mercy Corps Group to demand N80 million for the illegal termination of his appointment as an employee of the organisation under the USAID Funded Rural Resilience Activity project.

This was made known in a letter sent by his lawyer, John Ochogwu, Esq to the group’s country director, dated September 18, 2022, but obtained by SaharaReporters on Tuesday.

Mercy Corps is a global non-governmental, humanitarian aid organisation operating in transitional contexts that have undergone, or have been undergoing, various forms of economic, environmental, social and political instabilities.

The organisation claims to have assisted more than 220 million people survive humanitarian conflicts, seeking improvements in livelihoods and delivering durable development to their communities.

It was gathered that Mr Raymond was employed on April 27, 2020, as the ‘Resilience Advisor’ by the organisation to a USAID Funded Rural Resilience Activity project, which commenced in October 2019 and is scheduled to end in October 2024.

During his service as the Resilence Advisor, he started a variety of intervention concepts during this time, such as "Policy Dialogue Platforms" on Agricultural Input, "Youth-Led Climate Change Ambassadors," and increased the ability of nearly fifteen thousand (15,000) farmers and agro-input dealers on safer use of Agrochemicals.

The letter reads in part: “Our client’s sterling performance in this role earned him the best and highest Annual Performance Evaluation Result. Furthermore, our client was recommended to the position of a Director as the project’s Intervention Team Leader.

“It is equally on record that our client demonstrated strong leadership in supporting the intervention team to achieve over sixty-nine percent (69%) growth in the number of participants reached by the project.

“This is in addition to helping the activity achieve an upward growth of seventy-nine (79%) in job creation with more than one hundred and twenty-two (122%) in credit and two hundred and eighty-one (281%) in sales facilitated by the intervention team under our client’s leadership for program participants. Arising from the outstanding performances and contributions of our client to the organization, the organization had no difficulty in giving our client an excellent probational evaluation as part of his confirmation requirement for the role of Intervention Team Leader and was issued a confirmation letter to that effect on the 25th day of April, 2022.

“Our client resumed this new position as a Director on the 12th day of October, 2021 and has served meritoriously in this capacity until his employment was unlawfully terminated based on an alleged restructuring even though the facts leading to our client’s termination suggest that his termination was rather retaliatory and vindictive.

“It is curious that the organization’s claim of restructuring was never officially announced by neither the Human Resources Manager nor the leadership of the project.

“Our client’s dedication and commitment to work were not without challenges as our client has had to endure bullying, intimidation, discrimination and retaliation for discharging his duties particularly from….Aswani.

“Our client noted over time that the project leadership finds it hard to tolerate team members whose technical ideals are at variance with theirs. These treatments meted out to our clients contradict some of the organization’s values such as diversity, equity and inclusiveness as contained at paragraph 4.15 of the organization’s National Team Handbook…”

The letter said Mercy Corps states in its handbook that it is

“committed to a work environment in which all team members are treated with respect and dignity” and that Mercy Corps expects that “relationships among persons in the workplace will be business-like, professional and free of bias, prejudice and harassment”.

The letter, however, further states that Raymond “endured this obnoxious working environment and conditions until he resolved to provide feedback to his direct supervisor on the 19th day of June, 2022 and reported these abnormalities to the organization’s Ethics & Compliance team a number of times without any redress though our client was assured that investigation was being conducted”.

“Even though the project supervisor was dissatisfied with our client for taking this action, his action nonetheless was in line with paragraph 4.15 of the organizations’ handbook which provides as follows: ‘Mercy Corps Nigeria takes a strong stand on this issue and encourages any team member subjected to unacceptable behavior to bring it to the agency’s attention without delay’.

“However, rather than address his concerns, the feedback meeting turned out to be a vendetta mission and a threat by the Chief of Party to restructure the project team for the sole aim of eliminating his position. Consequently, our client was unjustly placed on probation despite the fact that he got a satisfactory probational review two months earlier by the project leadership.

The statement added that Raymond’s contract was terminated like that of a “common criminal or someone who has breached the organization’s code of conduct on the 31st day of August, 2022 at about 3:06pm”.

“Our client was barely given less than two hours’ notice before his contract with your organization was terminated and within minutes of that short notice, he was removed and denied access to the organization’s email servers.

“Our client was denied the opportunity to remove his personal belongings as he was ordered to hand over the organization’s properties in his possession and vacate the organization immediately.

“Our client is embarrassed and traumatized by the way and manner his contract with your organization was abruptly terminated. This action of yours has caused our client both emotional and psychological damage quite apart from the loss of income.

“Our client is entitled to adequate notice as provided in the organization’s National Team Handbook particularly at paragraph 9.1.7 as of right which you have grossly violated. For the avoidance of doubt, paragraph 9.1.7 of the handbook states: ‘In the event of such termination, Mercy Corps Nigeria will notify the affected team members in writing at least thirty (30) days prior to the expected last date of employment. Mercy Corps Nigeria will pay wages for the period of the notice. Mercy Corps is not obligated to make any compensatory payments for retrenchment (emphasis ours).’”

Raymond’s counsel therefore made the following demands since Mercy Corps “failed to terminate our client’s employment in the manner specified in your handbook:”

The letter asked that the organisation “release to our client every of his personal belongings in your custody forthwith”.

It also asked the organisation to “pay our client the sum of Eighty Million Naira (N80, 000, 000.00) as damages for unlawfully terminating his contract with your organization”.

“Please note that should you fail to accede to our client’s demands within the next three (3) working days, we shall be left with no other option but to institute an action against you in a court of law to seek redress for our client without further recourse to you,” it said.

“Take Further Notice that we shall forward a copy of this letter along with other correspondences to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), UK Department for International Development (DFID), European Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (ECHO) and other donor agencies upon the expiration of the three (3) days’ notice to you.”