BREAKING THE SILENCE - MY FIGHT AGAINST VIOLENCE AND DEHUMANIZATION OF WOMEN BY FRENCH COMPANY -BOLLORE AFRICA LOGISTICS NIGERIA
RE: BOLLORE AFRICA LOGISTIC NIGERIA LTD FIRES STAFF FOR HUMANITARIAN ACT IN DOGONAHAWA COMMUNITY OF PLATEAU STATE!!
My name is Abigail Nanchin Kakiyes. I voluntarily returned back to my homeland in 2008 after a short course in the UK with a passion and strong determination to be a positive Agent of change, adding value to the society. I love my country and I love my people - there is no genetic error in being black, Nigerian, especially feminine. I am proud of being a woman and see myself and all women as Nation builders. Whatever affects a woman negatively, is sure to affect the future of any nation.
Women face serious issues of varied forms of violence in Nigeria but very few would voice out their story let alone report to the relevant authorities. There is the fear of lack of justice as it is termed a man's world in quote also fear and shame of further societal victimization or isolation if you dare speak out. If I do not speak, many of my sisters would remain in this circle of bondage, the aim of telling my story is to encourage all women who are victims, to voice out their experiences unashamedly and fearlessly in other to stop all forms of violence against women NOW!!
In my case, though badly traumatized by the psychological violence suffered, I have summoned courage by taking legal actions to prove a point that women MUST never be taken for granted anymore thus demanding a public apology for abuse and dehumanization suffered amongst other things. Not just stopping at that, I recently called for a press conference in Jos, Plateau State which was well attended by seasoned journalists, demanding an end to violence against women and calling on all women affected to speak out standing in one voice.
A solution to ending violence against women in Nigeria would be first calling on the Federal Government, to enshrine women rights laws unto the Nigerian constitution which is currently being reviewed. Enough of the awareness campaigns it is time for action !
In August 2009, I was employed as Secretary and the only female Staff of SDV Nigeria Limited Kano branch (now called Bollore Africa Logistics Nigeria Ltd), under the supervision of a french expatriate. It was a new project, setting up a Warehouse for a Chinese client. We worked tirelessly from dusk to dawn to meet the proposed deadline. Unfortunately, there was an internal problem of fraud with one of our colleagues who threatened and demanded a huge sum from one of our contractors. Without hesitation I intervened to prevent the illegal transaction, saving the company a loss.
Shortly our existing Supervising Manager was replaced with one Charles Le Belenger, a young french expatriate under 25yrs. He officially resumed at Kano branch on 15th December, 2009 and the Kano team warmly received him with high expectations.
In a very short time, Charles Le Belenger, made the work place environment most unbearable for everyone, employing the tactics of bullying, victimization, public harassment followed by strong racist remarks evident by the following series of events:
• On resumption, he complained bitterly about pictures of the President (Late Alhaji Musa Yar’Adua), the State Governor (Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau) and Emir of Kano (Alhaji Ado Bayero) which was hung in the branch Manager's office by his predecessor– Charles Le Belenger described the pictures as very ugly, making jest that his Royal Highness Alhaji Ado Bayero - the Emir of Kano looks like a rabbit in his turban outfit.
• In creating new structural changes to his taste, he designated me to share same office with him (my desk facing his desk) and everyday Charles would officially resume office with his dog “Rambo” stationed inside the office we both share. I am sternly instructed to watch over his animal (Rambo) and to make sure it does not leave the office when he is out on an assignment.
• On several occasions, my supervising Manager, has instructed me to purchase food for himself and his dog. He severally remarks openly that the dog is far intelligent than his staff and can run the branch successful.
• Despite my diligence, hard work and loyalty, Charles severally referred to me, my colleagues and Nigerians generally as “morons” calling me “silly brain” one time and I complained. He stated that he never makes mistakes and the company brought him from Paris to manage Kano branch because no one is as intelligent or capable for the position.
• He constantly exhibits very hot temper and readily starts up fights with colleagues and even company contractors. At every opportunity or slightest error, Charles indiscriminately uses the “F” word to refer to Nigeria and Nigerians.
• We were constantly bullied and daily reminded that we would be fired at the snap of his fingers as there is high unemployment rate in Nigeria. (poverty and fear is the reason many are afraid to speak out)
• He constantly embarrasses and interrupts my official and social interactions with fellow colleagues, one time he banned me from the Accountants office and the adjoining Warehouse where my colleagues worked, instructing me to talk to myself and not to my colleagues
• He openly uses the term ‘black monkeys’ at workers - a contractor once complained in writing about the use of this language at his laborers assigned to the Warehouse who were indigenes of Kano.
• Charles Le Belenger once summoned the management of the security company guarding our Warehouse premises to sack with immediate effect an old man who served as a driver for fetching water in our compound. Young Hausa boys working as laborers were instantly sacked for staring his way.
• Charles Le Belenger finally issued me a query accusing me of inability to interact among coworkers, arrogance and failure to follow even recorded direction of minutes of meeting.
I replied his cooked up query exposing his behavior to Management, shortly a Team of senior Staff union members within the organization, visited Kano to investigate the issue. They were too scared to enter the BM's office I share because of the dog and witnessed firsthand violence towards me. Nonetheless Management issued me a warning letter and subsequently instructed my transfer to Head Office Lagos as Customer Services Assistant Manager (Groupage Department).
The Nigerian Management of Bollore Group assigned me to Lagos while Charles Lebelenger was promoted to manage the Group's branches in both Kano and FCT Abuja. Very traumatized and abused, I resumed at my new designation as Customer service Assistant Manager at Burma Road, Apapa Lagos, there I worked tirelessly signing in daily to work before 6:30am. One of the difficult challenges I faced in groupage department, was alienation by some fellow colleagues who forcefully collected bribes from importers or Agents before releasing their goods to them it was a life style. Several attempts to stop this malpractice was laughed at yet the Customers complained bitterly of very outrageous local handling charges and exploitation by staff, so I reported to my H.O.D and Supervising Manager.
On the 19th of March, 2012 I was promoted from grade / co-efficient 100+1 to 100+9 with a salary increment followed by a job Training. I prepared to commence my Annual Leave which was approved for 8th June, 2012 then suddenly an idea was conceived in my heart to use my leave allowance to touch the lives of widows and orphans of Dogonahawa village of Jos, Plateau State through the giving of relief materials such as food items, cloths, detergent etc.
The Dogonahawa village communities were helpless victims of a gruesome genocide in the year 2010 where men, women and children were brutally massacred at the wake of dawn.
I was very excited and passionate about this goodwill cause and without prior knowledge of any negative reactions, informed a few close colleagues and selected Management Personnel via our official e-mail. I saw it as a platform for CSR by the Bollore Group (who has existed over 30 years in Nigeria as Alraine Shipping) especially as the Bollore Group is actively involved in community charity in its Francophone African subsidiaries but never in Nigeria where millions of dollar profit is realized weekly.
My email contained a brief introduction of Plateau State, facts about what had happened to the Dogonahawa community in the year 2010 and a clarion call to volunteer and help the widows and orphans of the community.
Managing Director Mr TRANCHEPAIN Jean-Christophe (Bollore Africa Logistics Nigeria) immediately responded to my email, summoning me to his office the following day stating that employees are not authorized to use the Bollore intra-net for social networking.
The following day at the M.D’s office, in the presence of the Group Human Resources Manager (Nigerian), I was denied any opportunity to explain. The MD unreservedly hurled insults at me saying; am dressed like a queen yet am ‘a nobody’ (it was a Friday & I was in African attire). He said I have ‘no brains' in my head, further questioning my designation as Assistant Manager then ushered me out of his presence.
The following series of events then ensued:
• I was issued a query to answer within 48 hours to which I responded apologetically explaining my true and honest intentions
• I proceeded on my leave and still continued to Jos during the crisis for the community project.
• Fate twisted, a day after I arrived Jos, I was invited by the Hon. Commissioner of Women Affairs and social development Barrister Olivia Dazyem for a press conference in appreciation of the humanitarian initiative to support the widows and orphans of Dogonahawa village Jos, Plateau State. She welcomed me on behalf of the State Governor His Excellency David Jang and the good people of Plateau State, assigning two of her Directors, PRTV and press crew to cover the event on the 30th of June, 2012. It was a great success; the village Heads, Youth leader, Clergy and entire village community was thrilled and appreciative of the bags of rice, cartons of toiletries and Maggi, bags of salt etc presented. Jos Radio stations, TV and State newspaper ‘STANDARD’ featured the event which was also captured in ‘THE NATION’ national newspaper of 17th August, 2012 - Page 48
On resumption after my leave, Bollore management placed me on a 6 weeks Suspension without salary effective 26th July, 2012 - 6th September, 2012.
• The suspension from duty was contrary to the employees contract agreement so I forwarded a letter (requesting some form of explanation) to Management of Bollore Africa Logistics making reference to Article 43 Sub section B of Bollore Employee handbook which clearly states; Suspension from employment, without pay up to a maximum of two weeks (14 days) or indefinite suspension as in the case of serious gross misconduct – ‘fraud
• Bollore Management never responded to my mail.
• I resumed in the early hours of 6th September, 2012 and headed to my H OD's office who clearly explained that he was on leave at the time management issued my suspension but he never consented - following due grievance procedures of the company, he particularly asked for opportunity to discuss with me and investigate before further action is taken. That same day, I was summoned to Head office (No 26 Creek Road, Apapa Lagos) and issued a letter of Termination.
• It must be stated that prior to my suspension and even at my return, the Bollore in-house email network (which according to Management, is monitored from France and prohibited for social mails) has always been used by a large number of colleagues for incriminating political comments, religious and other social networking (some of which the Human Resources Manager was in copy) also there was an internal memo of known culprits engaged in pornography during official hours (proofs available). Yet no disciplinary action was executed.
• I was victimized, issued a query, sent on 6 weeks suspension without salary and finally sacked because I expressed a community good will gesture to Bollore Management.