A cursory look at the above excerpt of the guidelines clearly reveals that it is not enough for an International Oil Company to request the approval of the Minister of Petroleum. Such a company must also state the reason, the compensation due to the worker, and the possible replacement of the said worker.
IMPLICATIONS FOR BREACH OF THE GUIDELINES
The implication for failing to comply with the said requirements when applying for the Minister’s approval is tantamount to a refusal of such application. This is stated in the guideline as follows:
“Where the Employer fails to submit any required information to the DPR, such application for staff release shall not be eligible for the Minister’s approval.”
Furthermore, where an International Oil Company breaches the guideline, it is liable to pay a fine for default. This is particularly stated in the guideline as thus:
“As provided in Regulation 60B of the Petroleum (Drilling and Production) (Amendment) Regulations 2019 any person who fails to comply with these Guidelines is liable to a penalty issued by the Director of Petroleum Resources not exceeding Two Hundred and Fifty Thousand United States Dollars (USD 250,000.00), and in addition, any permit, licence or lease granted to that person may be withdrawn or cancelled by the Director of Petroleum Resources.”
WHAT IS THE LEGALITY OF THE SAID GUIDELINES?
Since the Guideline came into force, it has sparked reactions from many quarters as lawyers and public commentators have had their say. While some proponents believe that the guideline is too stringent, as seeking the minister’s approval for the release of workers in the oil and gas industry appears to be draconian, and so will not survive the furnace of litigation.
Albeit, the said provision of the Guideline was judicially tested by the Court in a recent Suit between Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria LTD v The Minister of Petroleum & 2 ORS.
In this case, the Nigeria Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission which was formerly the Directorate of Petroleum Resources, that released the Guidelines for the release of workers in the oil and gas industry, had received a petition from a certain employee that was released by SPDC without the requisite consent of the minister. SPDC had responded to the petition by citing a precedent that cited the guideline to be in breach of standard employment contracts. DPR being dissatisfied with the response of SPDC issued a fine, and SPDC approached the Court to adjudicate on the issue.
The Court held that the previous decision relied on by SPDC has been overtaken by events since the enactment of the Petroleum Industry Act, as it empowers the Minister for Petroleum to make regulations and/or Guidelines that cover personal contracts of service. The Court, therefore, upheld the fine issued by DPR.