How top Nigerian staff was allegedly harassed, forced out of Ericsson

Ericsson Headquarters in Sweden (Photo Credit: Ventures Africa)

A Nigerian woman was allegedly forced out of the employment of Ericsson Nigerian Limited by an Indian and three other staff of the company, PREMIUM TIMES has gathered.

Joy Ndukwe, a former Account Manager for Airtel Nigeria at the company, said she was harassed, maltreated and forcefully eased out of the employment of the telecommunication company by Atul Ojah, the Indian, and three other staff of the company.

Speaking to PREMIUM TIMES through her lawyer, Stanley Imhanruor, the woman also claimed that the company has refused to pay her terminal benefits despite the ill treatment she was subjected to.

According to documents seen by PREMIUM TIMES, Mrs. Ndukwe joined the services of the company as a contract staff in April 2001 and was offered regular employment in June 2006.

Consequently, she was elevated and designated as the Account Manager for Airtel Nigeria Limited, a portfolio she claimed covered 70 per cent of Airtel Nigeria total sales in the 14 countries where Ericsson operates in Africa.

Ericsson Nigeria, a corporate body registered in Nigeria, is a global brand and subsidiary of Ericsson Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson, located in Stockholm, Sweden.

According to Mrs. Ndukwe, following her employment as regular staff in 2006, she was placed on an annual salary of N2 million, after which it was reviewed to N2.2 million in 2007. She added that based on the performance of the last review conducted in April 2017, her annual remuneration was placed at N9. 2 million (N9,172,834).

ALLEGED CONSPIRACY

PREMIUM TIMES learnt that trouble started when Mrs. Ndukwe applied for the position of Account Manager for Airtel West Africa after the company called for application to fill the vacancy on its website.

She argued that she performed well at the interview and was tipped as the candidate to fill the vacancy.

Things, however, took a different turn when her Indian boss, Atul Ojha, allegedly launched a series of attacks to ensure she did not clinch the job and was eased out of the company’s employment.

She also claimed that several staff of the company sent in congratulatory messages to her, saying her acceptance letter had been deposited with her boss as the only successful candidate. She explained that rather than hand over the letter to her, Mr. Ojha offered to assist her with an external job at American Towers, an offer she rejected.

Subsequently, she said she was summoned to a meeting in September by one Omoniyi Adejoro, another staff of the company.

At the meeting, Mrs. Ndukwe said she was bullied and harassed for having the effrontery to apply for placements reserved for expatriates. She explained that she, however, stood her ground and refused to be intimidated, saying such claims contradict the company’s recruitment policy.

Thereafter, she said she was directed to resign voluntarily by Mr. Omoniyi, together with two other non-Nigerian staff of the company, Aaakash Seghal and Rutger Reman.

Mrs. Ndukwe said the pressure and intimidation took a toll on her health, prompting her to embark on medical sick leave in September. She, however, claimed that even while on sick leave, attempts were made by the trio to kidnap her and compel her to sign an agreement indicating that she voluntarily resigned.

Mrs. Ndukwe explained further that she was threatened by Mr. Ojha and others that if she refused to resign and allow them announce the name of their preferred candidate, her position as Account Manager of Airtel Nigeria would be declared vacant and her terminal benefits would be slashed.

The ex-Ericsson staff claimed that after she refused to bow to pressure, Mr Ojha and others allegedly caused her profile to be removed from the company’s system globally, a development that created the impression that she had resigned even when she was still on sick leave.

Subsequently, in a letter dated October 10, the company declared her position redundant and purportedly computed her terminal benefits at N25, 708, 969.

The company’s decision also led to the withdrawal of her health insurance services at Reddington and Saint Nicholas hospitals, where she had been hospitalized for extremely high blood pressure and nervous breakdown occasioned by the harassment suffered in the hands of her Indian boss and others.

But Mr. Imhanruor told PREMIUM TIMES that contrary to the company’s computation, Mrs. Ndukwe’s terminal benefit for the 11 years and 122 days of her service at the company is N37, 440,610, adding that despite repeated demands the company has refused to pay.

When PREMIUM TIMES visited the head office of Ericsson in Victoria Island, the company’s spokesperson, Toju Egbedi, said the matter had been referred to the court and the company would not want to comment on it.

She however sent what she described as the company’s ‘official statement’ to PREMIUM TIMES.

“There is an active ongoing court case around this issue and Ericsson can therefore not comment. Ericsson has previously communicated that a key component of the company’s focused business strategy is to reduce costs and increase efficiency,” the statement read.

“Executing on these plans to cut costs has unfortunately had an impact on some of our employees across the world, including in Nigeria. We are, however, making every effort to ensure that our core values of professionalism, perseverance and respect are adhered to in dealing with all affected employees. In addition, Ericsson has a firm Code of Business Ethics, which it ensures all employees acknowledge that they have read and understood at the time of employment.

“The acknowledgment process is refreshed every other year. When we uncover irregular activity or employee misconduct, we take action to limit the risk and ensure that this is not repeated anywhere within our organization,” the company concluded.

Mr. Imhanruor said the case was important because there is need to look into corruption and unfair treatment of workers in the private sector.

“More often than not we just concentrate on the government but the rate of mis-governance is more in the private sector. There is also the issue of racial discrimination because the other guys involved are Indian guys,” he said.

The case had been taken to court and it came up for the first time on November 29. It has however been adjourned till January 2018.


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