Circa 2010: Inside the Special Projects Department of Vanguard Newspapers, Kirirkiri.
“You have been selected for an interview on ...at 159/161 Broad Street...". For someone who left the city of Warri for the greener pastures of Lagos after mandatorily serving the nation for one year, this is one of the pieces of good news you would want to receive.
The aptitude test that led to that piece of news was one of the best I had had in my job quest that year. An open-book exam.
The questions were published in about 4 national newspapers.
All we needed to do was: read two books: Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap...and Others Don't by James C. Collins) and Loyalty Rules! How Leaders Build Lasting Relationships by Frederick Reichheld.
Intriguing, right? No invigilator. No timer. Just you, your books and the aptitude test questions in your living room! I was already looking forward to working for, and with such a man!
And it was an oil and gas job! Imagine my excitement when I was shortlisted for the next stage!
We all showed up at Energy House that day and guess what, it was instant employment - no interviews. The Lord is good. Employment letter received. Salary, 125k. Then I burst into songs of praise. Trust me. An old school choir boy.
"If you come see me now, you no go know me again. Even if you know me before, you no go know me again....". You know that song, right?
The first training was in Abuja. NICON Luxury Hotel. We were all invited. And he asked us to find our way there. Yeah! You heard that right. Come to Abuja on your own. And stay for one week in his hotel. No transport allowance. 2 adults in one room. I smelt another rat.
The training was broadcast live on AIT! Yeah. Who does that? People started calling and congratulating me. They saw us on TV! We don hammer! Yet, we paid our fares to Abuja. Then, we were all asked to pay N1000 for our ID cards. Yes! Cash. About 300 of us. Nobody complained. If they did, I wasn’t aware. Over 300k collected. I smelled a rabbit this time. And it was a daily dose of a mixture of arrogance, arrogant humour, vanities, hypocrisy, emotional blackmail, sense and nonsense. How his private jet was bigger than that of Bishop Oyedepo. How he would be cruising at 40,000 ft above sea level. How he would pay a huge offering to the RCCG and refuse a prayer from the man of God because “the one you prayed for me the last time has not expired.” We suffered in the hands of this man!
We did another one-month training at Ilupeju, one of the Energy filling stations and it was time to be deployed. It was a la NYSC - posted to wherever the management deemed fit.
Then, he waltzed in, tummy-rubbing, spewing arrogance and sense at the same time. Jimoh Ibrahim. Barrister. Nouveau riche.
I was a bit irritated. But I was ready to accommodate such a "great guy".
Moments later, my 5-man team was posted to Ilorin. Four BDOs and one BDM. YDJLS. Five of us.
I noticed another thing. All of us young men (some were fresh, first-class and Two-One graduates from Covenant University, and about the best from other schools) were posted to towns we had never been to before, and nobody was talking about mobilization or accommodation. (If they did, I was not aware of any). I mean, you are not our Lord Jesus who sent out His disciples without a purse, yet they lacked nothing! Your name is Jimoh. And we were asked to go! Just like that? From Lagos to Ilorin. No fare. Nothing.
And almost everybody was holding hands in prayers for “journey mercies”. I knew I would need journey mercies to Ilorin, but first things first. I headed straight to the admin department. “Madam, thank you for posting me to Ilorin. I have never been there. I’m already excited.” She smiled. Beautiful woman. Mrs Adedoyin. And I added: “But madam, but you know it’s a good thing when sending a soldier out, you give him at least two bullets – one for the enemy and the other, for…” (You know na) She smiled again. It appeared as though God’s grace was activated. She spoke to me almost in whispers, asking not to tell anybody, and wrote a cheque of 20k in my name. 20k! I can keep a secret. Opposite the head office was a First Bank branch. It was past 4 pm, but grace had been activated. I walked in, explained to the gatekeeper and all was well. I claimed my pepper! Then, it was time to pray.
We worked for 2 years. We never received more than half of that salary. We were told he would help us “save” the other half and buy a car for all of us. Adults ooo. He paid pension for a few months, and the following months, his accountants would take ONLY the employee contribution and slice it into 2 and called it employee and employer contribution. A financial crime, I suppose. At times he would buy management books from the UK and deduct at source. (Who send you to buy books for us? ni tori Olorun?) We were all too scared to talk.
And how I loathed the Monday morning praise and worship at the headquarters! Hypocritical. Thank God I was working in Ilorin and had to endure that each time we had a meeting in Lagos. He had one Bishop Ogedengbe as Company Pastor. There was a band. And a sermon on Monday morning. And even offering. Yes, offering! I never paid any offering, God forbid! Then the ‘bishop’ would preach on how we should not eat our tomorrow today. Yet Jimoh was owing us our tomorrow. My friend Yinka and I would immediately, but whisperingly retort: “Allow us to eat our tomorrow by ourselves. It’s better than you eating it by not paying us our complete salary.”
Within those two years, we would find out it was all a scam. It appeared he deliberately ran it aground. I can’t tell. No wahala, go with your oil and gas, give us our money – that you had saved for us. For where! Jimoh refused. Almost everyone left without asking for their pay. It's our style. Life goes on. But I would have none of that. I didn’t have money to prosecute such a case but I was looking for a lawyer. I found one, a very good man. He turned out to be a deacon in my church. God bless that man. I got in touch with Uche. My former Oil-without-gas colleague. And we won, against a SAN. But Jimoh appealed. We won again. After about 4 years. Justice in Nigeria!
Let me state it clearly: JIMOH PAID A SENIOR ADVOCATE OF NIGERIA – SAN, AGAINST US FOR SOMETHING NOT MORE THAN 5 MILLION! But we won him twice.
Then we obtained a Garnishee Order. Hello, my ‘learned colleagues’ (lol!), that was the first time I knew such a term existed.
But there was no money in Jimoh’s Global Fleet accounts. Scam. He knew what he was doing.
However, one day, we got lucky. I got a call from my lawyer. They found about 900k in one account. We saved 100k for follow-up; and shared 800k! It was not a waste of time after all. I was happy, at least the lawyer got something. A man that would put us in his car and drive us to National Industrial Court, Lagos Island.
Now that his assets have been frozen, I’m not sure how that would work, legally speaking. But all hope is not lost. The Bible is still true – a labourer is entitled to his hire. Jimoh Ibrahim must pay, one way or another. And the name of the Lord will be glorified.
Let me keep this here for the record. I hate nonsense. I hate injustice!
PS: “What is a garnishee order? It is typically issued when a creditor you owe money to has obtained a default judgement from a court or other authority against you. The judgement then allows the creditor to issue a court order that instructs a third party such as your employer, bank or financial institution to redirect your wages or holdings to the creditor you owe money to. Once a garnishee order has been issued, your employer, bank or financial institution is legally obligated to comply with it.”