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Monday, June 17, 2024

JUDGE ROLAND DAHN’S RULING IN SEGAL-AGGRIEVED CASE BACKFIRES

Date:

LIBERIA – The Honorable Justice-in-Chamber, at the Supreme Court of Liberia, Jamesetta Wolokollie, has summoned the Judge of the 8th Judicial Circuit in Sanniquellie, Nimba County to appear before her to hear a Writ of Prohibition filed against him by the Security Expert Guard Service of Liberia (SEGAL), over recent ruling against it.

According to a citation in the possession of IPNEWS, Justice Wolokollie, informed Judge Roland Dahn, to appear no later than Monday, October 3, 2022, to show cause why the petition by the petitioner, Security Expert Guard Service of Liberia (SEGAL), should not be heard.

The citation also commanded that Judge Dahn release all properties seized, and personnel imprisoned from the petitioner pending the hearing and determination of the matter.

The summons by the Justice-in-chambers, Wolokollie, follows Thursday, September 22, 2022 report by IPNEWS that Justice-in-Chambers, Jamesetta Wolokollie, had ordered the Judge of the 8th Judicial Circuit in Sanniquellie, Nimba County, Roland Dahn, to return to status-quo-Ante, in an earlier ruling against the Security Expert Guard Service of Liberia (SEGAL), of ‘unfair labor practice’, and requested SEGAL to pay 353 aggrieved employees US$734, 131.80.00 and threatened to seize the properties of SEGAL.

Sources informed IPNEWS that at Thursday’s hearing Judge Roland Dahn admitted that the 353 names of former and dismissed employees were not originally a party to the initial complaint filed against SEGAL, including an earlier statement that lawyers representing SEGAL did not file an appeal before the court following his ruling.

Following examination by Justice Jamesetta Wolokollie, it was ruled that the verdict by Judge Roland Dahn, be reversed and the parties return to status-code-Anti in keeping with law to satisfy all the provisions continued in the application of the case.

Earlier, an independent investigation conducted by the authoritative Independent Probe newspaper (IPNEWS) revealed that the recent ruling by the Judge of the 8th Judicial Circuit in Sanniquellie, Nimba County, Roland Dahn against one of Liberia’s highly rated private security institutions, Security Expert Guard Service of Liberia (SEGAL), has been received with diverse reactions from Nimbaians, the public, and some SEGAL security personnel.

SEGAL is a security guard company in charge of security for Arcelor Mittal Liberia, especially in Nimba County.

In 2017 six aggrieved SEGAL employees assigned at ArcelorMittal facilities in Nimba County took the security firm to court over wrongful dismissal, unfair labor practices, and low salaries. The six employees went to court despite a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed between the SEGAL management and the Security Guards after the agreement had been reached on their salaries and other benefits and was attested by the Labor Commissioner in Nimba County.

An investigation conducted by IPNEWS revealed that prior to the six aggrieved security guards going to court, they were in the act of continuous disturbance to disrupt work at ArcelorMittal, thus claiming the attention of ArcelorMittal and SEGAL. To avoid a repeat of their disturbance, SEGAL opted to reassign them to their areas of responsibility despite being asked by ArcelorMittal to dismiss them.

But IPNEWS’ investigative report revealed when the six guards were told that they were being transferred from the company’s facilities to other areas, they vehemently refused and continued with their disturbances, thus prompting the management of SEGAL to pay them off and relieve them of their posts. But the employees were dissatisfied with their dismissal, they ran to court in 2017.

It is reported that the number of six employees who ran to court in 2017 number increased to over 300 employees in the period of over three years. How the number increased to over 300 is still a mystery because SEGAL had only relieved three of their guards from job due to their continuous disturbances that went against the company’s policy.

The case finally ended in 2022 with the ruling under the hands of the 8th Judicial Circuit Court Judge. But the ruling of Judge Roland Dahn has sparked up controversy with some accusing the Judge of being in error in his ruling.

Among other things, Judge Dahn ruled for alleged ‘unfair labor practice’ and instructed SEGAL to pay 353 aggrieved employees US$734, 131.80.00 and threatened to seize the properties of SEGAL as well as the arrest of authorities of SEGAL respectively.

Interestingly, IPNEWS’ investigation revealed that the named 353 employees many of whom are already dead or have retired and even dismissed for bridged of the company’s policy, surfaced as the end-of-case complainants.

“The Judge passed his ruling based on tribal sentiments, he came up with a ruling and he didn’t give chance to allow the other party takes an appeal and he came up with his final ruling,” Joshua Mannie of Yekepa stated.

“Prior to SEGAL hiring some of the citizens in Nimba, things were difficult for them. But I don’t understand why some of the people in Nimba are fighting SEGAL, is it because they have offered jobs to our people? It’s hard to talk, why should we Nimbaians be fighting other Liberians who are investing in our county all because they are not from here, we did it to ArcelorMittal and now we are fighting SEGAL because the owner of the company is not from here, we need to stop this,” Moses Dolo to IPNEWS in Yekepa

SEGAL’s management maintains that they normally follow all of the best international practices under the contract which over the period has been approved by AML.

It may be recalled, on April 24 and 25, six guard officers’ staged and incited a go-slow on the AML concession area. AML in a communication to SEGAL dated Monday, April 24, 2017, requested SEGAL to disallow the six guards unto the concession area given their action.

Subsequently, on May 12, 2017, the administration of SEGAL recalled six guard personnel, namely: Cyrus Saye, Enoch Topoe, John Lehwoan, Z Tongor Duo, and Emmanuel Gbemie, for reassignment premised on an occurrence of April 24 and 25, 2017, respectively to which they instigated a ‘go slow Action’, at AML Concession area in violation of the SEGAL handbook 59 and 62, section 2. under titled: subversive conduct, which states that “No SEGAL officer, guard, contractor, staff or other personnel, whether on duty or not, shall conduct himself/herself in such a manner as would be subversive to the good image, order and discipline, and credibility of SEGAL, it’s client’s and /or the government of Liberia; and section 14. which talks about inciting violence prohibited.”

With this, the pairs refused to be reassigned.

On May 31, 2017, Superintendent Cooper, wrote SEGAL that it could not transfer the six while they were igniting their rights. Subsequently, June 19, 2017, the pairs (aggrieved workers) wrote Mr.  Itoka Quoi, Labor commissioner, Nimba county to meet the management of SEGAL and the aggrieved workers.

In the event of this, on June 21, 2017, the matter was heard at the Labor court. A six-count MOU was reached between the aggrieved workers and SEGAL management.

IPNEWS’ investigation further uncovered that misinformation and lack of education among the workers led to multiple protests and actions staged by some officers of SEGAL in Yekepa.

Some of the officers spoken to expressed displeasure at some of their colleagues who were jeopardizing their employment by their continuous court action against SEGAL.

“Some of us are even confused with the manner and form in which the matter is been handled by the judge, but we cannot say it all”, a SEGAL security guard in Yekepa told IPNEWS

The case which started in 2017 was ruled by Judge Roland Dahn of the 8th, Judicial circuit court in Sanniquellie, Nimba County but Justice Wolokollie has placed a hold on the matter pending legal discussion on Thursday, September 23, 2022.

Among other things, Judge Dahn ruled for alleged unfair labor practice and instructed SEGAL to pay the 353 aggrieved employees US$734, 131.80.00 and threatened to seize the properties of SEGAL as well as the arrest of authorities of SEGAL respectively.

In an interview with IPNEWS in Yekepa, Judge Dahn justified his ruling based on the failure of SEGAL’s lawyer to file an appeal within ten days. This claim by Judge Dahn has been swiftly rebuked by lawyers representing SEGAL.

The legal team of SEGAL maintains that it responded and attended all the legal hearings, and proceedings, including the filing of the necessary legal papers yet Judge Dahn, satisfied his ruling against SEGAL.

The SEGAL lawyers stated further that contrary to the claims by Judge Dahn that lawyers representing SEGAL did not file an appeal, an appeal has been made to determine the merits and demerits of Judge Dahn’s ruling.

Contrary to precepts of the Judge’s ruling to include 353 additional names to constitute his ruling, documents in the possession of IPNEWS proves that the legal confrontation between SEGAL and aggrieved employees were only six rather than 353.

Those protesting employees that filed as complainants were: Taytassleah Duo, Cyrus Saye, Enoch S. Topoe, John Lehwoan, Z. Tongor Duo, and Emmanuel K. Gbemie.

A view of the Supreme Court of Liberia

Even though IPNEWS’ investigation has established that SEGAL is yet to re-sign a contract with AML for about two years now, the perception of Guard officers, mostly Nambaians, that AML was given a huge sum as payment for each personnel are untrue and with malicious intent to get SEGAL out of Nimba county. At the moment IPNEWS’ investigation uncovered that as a result of the strike action staged by the six principal guard officers, a renewal contract process that would address critical issues of salary increment and other benefits with authorities of AML at its London offices was aborted.

According to the Liberia Chamber of Commerce, SEGAL is the only Liberian company with the largest Liberian workforce operating in thirteen of Liberia’s 15 Counties with over 3,500 employees.

The company is owned and operated by a Liberian, Momo Cyrus and has been rendering professional services for several years including implementing its corporate social responsibility to the population.

Until the Final decision from Justice Wolokollie, there are uncertainties regarding Judge Dahn’s ruling as it remains unabated.

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