Foreign Contractor Accuses Dangote Of N30 Million Fraud
Sani Dangote (image courtesy Premium Times)

A contractor of Egyptian extract Marco Zoccoli has threatened to drag the North African country into a dispute with a Nigerian businessman Sani Dangote.

Concise News reports that Zoccoli is accusing Dangote of betrayal of trust, rights infringement, and breach of contract.

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The development is coming four years after both men entered into a business partnership.

Sani Dangote, a relative of Africa’s richest man and billionaire Aliko Dangote, is the owner of Dansa Agro-allied Limited, NPS Nigeria Limited, and vice president of the Dangote group.

In several letters to Nigerian authorities and court documents, Zoccoli accuses Sani Dangote’s NPS of owing him N30 million.

Also, the Egyptian accuses Dangote and his company of abusing his fundamental rights by withholding his international passport for over two years and threatening to boot him out of Nigeria without full payment for a three-year contract between both parties signed in September 2014.

Zoccoli’s protest

In an interview with Premium Times which was translated by his wife, Ijeoma, Zoccoli claims he teamed up with Dangote’s company after the Nigerian entrepreneur expressed interest in working with him.

“I was working in a company, Woodmill when I met Alhaji Sani Dangote. He invited me over to his office in Lagos and we discussed the proposed contract. After we agreed on the terms of the contracts, I was made to move to Calabar. The contract was for three years, September 2014 to October 2017.

“His company, NPS Limited, was involved in the production of timber and they were having issues because, in Calabar, you can only sell finished wooden products. So he approached me to help with the production of wooden doors for the Nigerian market.

“I was supposed to be paid 4000 euros as salary per month, with an additional N200,000 for my local upkeep,” Zoccoli says.

He says Dangote promised to match the salary in his previous employment with the one he was to be paid in the contract. According to Zoccoli, the Nigerian businessman also promised to increase his salary over time.

However, a few months into his employment, Zoccoli says he noticed a disturbing development that attracted several changes in the terms of his contract and personal life.

“According to the terms of my contract, I was employed by a company known as NPS Nigeria Limited. However, I was given a work permit which appeared as though I was employed by Dansa Agro Allied Limited,” Zoccoli notes.

“NPS deals with the production of timber and Dansa Agro Allied deals on plantation. I worked as Managing Director of a branch of the NPS for Mr Dangote’s organisation. I also did the concrete work foundation for the installations during the time before the machines for my work was brought,” Zoccoli adds.

Speaking further, Zoccoli divulges that Sani Dangote’s company went back on its plan to install some important machines after purchasing the same through the Egyptian, for over a year.

“I brought the machines to Nigeria in January 2015. But rather than move them from the port in Lagos to Calabar, the company left them at the port till 2016.

“Not only did they abandon the machines, but they also left them under the heat of the sun and the rain,” Zoccoli says.

The company eventually decided to install the machine following threats by Zoccoli to back down on the contracts. According to the Egyptian, a majority of the workers had embarked on industrial action because the company had a reputation for owing its workers.

Consequently, Zoccoli says, he was forced to join in offloading the machines with three other staff and ended up with a complication in his spine.

“Something happened. I was trying to move away from a coming object when I was hit by another. I went home and massaged the place with balm and hot water, thinking it was mild. But the following day, I could not move. I was taken to the hospital and told that five of my vertebral disc had dislocated,” Zoccoli says.

Despite the health challenge, Zoccoli says he continued the work after his treatment at a Lagos teaching hospital which was partly funded by Sani Dangote’s company.

“During this time, my salary had stockpiled. They would pay me for one month and fail to pay for the next two months. They had also been paying me 50 per cent of the agreed salary, but I told them I would no longer take 50 per cent,” he says.

Zoccoli says he agreed to be paid half because the company had suggested that it would start making the full payment when the installation was completed.

Also, Zoccoli explains that the company collected his international passport to help him renew it when it was due in 2015. However, the expatriate adds that Sani Dangote’s company refused to return the passport under the guise of maintaining a company policy, Zoccoli alleges.

Also, he alleges that the promise for full payment of his salary was not fulfilled by Sani Dangote’s NPS limited. Zoccoli adds that weeks after completing the three-year contract, Sani Dangote’s company asked him to either renew the contract or be prepared to return to Egypt.

“They also made very stringent conditions in the document for renewal of contracts. They slashed my salary and said I would no longer be entitled to an official car, among other things,” he says.

Court’s Intervention

Zoccoli says he reacted to the seeming threats by reporting the matter to the Egyptian embassy and the Nigeria Police Force. That action resulted in a lawsuit instituted by the police against the company. However, the lawsuit was frustrated by poor prosecution and consequently discharged in August 2018.

According to the court, the evidence brought forward by the prosecution was inconsistent. Citing the timing of the alleged seizure of Zoccoli’s passport as stated by the witnesses, the court says the evidence alluded by the prosecution was unclear and doubtful.

“The prosecution evidence is inconsistent as to the timing of the alleged seizure. Furthermore, there are inconsistencies on the timing of Macro’s employment with the second accused person,” says the Port Harcourt Division of the magistrate court, where the case was heard.

Although Zoccoli’s international passport was later returned to him in October 2018 following intervention by the Nigerian immigration authorities and the court, Zoccoli bemoans he has not been paid 19 months’ salary, despite repeated requests for the payment.

The Egyptian contractor says he is disappointed by the actions of Sani Dangote and his company and may involve his country if efforts to amicably resolve the issue fail in Nigeria.

“If things continue like this, I may have to involve my country,” Zoccoli threatens.

NPS Nigeria Limited Reacts

A human resource official at NPS Nigeria Limited simply identified as Liyatu denies knowledge of the matter when contacted by Premium Times.

Another staff of the firm later called and accused Zoccoli of distorting the facts.

“I just want you to know that those people are telling lies. That case was taken to court and struck out,” the caller who refuses to identify himself says.

Efforts to contact the head of communication, Dangote Group, Anthony Chiejina, proved abortive.

Chiejina did not respond to calls or text messages sent to his phone line, regarding the matter.

Also, Dansa Agro Allied’s office in Lagos was contacted but no further response to the allegations by Zoccoli was obtained.