By Tope Templer Olaiya, Assistant Lagos City Editor
FOR Alexandra Ossai and her Lebanese boss, Kaveh Noine, both employees of Top Pan Printing company in Ikeja, things are not the same anymore; their lives have been disrupted since an incident between both, resulting in the loss of a seven-month pregnancy came into public space.
The travails of Mrs. Ossai, a supervisor with the firm, who underwent emergency surgery at Glorious Mercy Clinic in Fagba area of Lagos, after receiving an alleged kick in the tummy, has been well documented in the media.
The Lagos State Government through the Ministry of Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation at the weekend waded in and responded to the appeal for assistance from Ossai by settling her medical bills and securing a comfortable accommodation for her and her family.
However, not much had been heard from the alleged assailant, Noine, who earlier reports suggested had travelled out of the country, and who according to the Lagos State deputy governor, Mrs. Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire, would be made the poster boy of the state’s law against domestic violence and violence in work places.
In a chat with The Guardian, Noine, expectedly, denied the charges against him. He said contrary to reports that he had fled the country; he spent the Yuletide in Lagos and Kano, though he had planned to be with his family in Spain.
He, however, admitted that his international passport has been seized by the police authorities investigating the case. “I submitted myself to the police for questioning and investigation into the matter is ongoing.
“I am just a victim of a long-held bias Nigerians have against their Lebanese employers. All I said to Alexandra was ‘I am going to sack you; you are not doing your job.’ How that would lead to kicking in the tummy in an office environment of over 30 employees, without anybody knowing is what I can’t understand.”
After some prodding, Noine gave his version of what transpired on Saturday, December 14. “I have decided not to speak to the press because of ongoing police investigation but it is necessary I state my case to correct some misinformation already in the public domain.
“I came back from my break around 2pm and saw that the environment was dirty. It’s not her job to clean the office; she has six cleaners to supervise. So, I told her that if you cannot do your work, I am going to sack you.
“She had earlier been served two warnings and a third one would have led to a dismissal. I wrote her termination letter and gave it to her to sign but she started crying, begging me not to terminate her appointment, especially with Christmas approaching.
“Her colleagues, including Ajoke, Kuburat and Loretta, pleaded for her and I tore the letter and ask her to return to her work. Even when the police came here for their finding days later, they saw the letter of resignation I tore in the waste bin.
“On Monday, December 16, she reported to work and logged out of the premises at 6:30pm. In fact, she was part of those making preparations for our end-of-year party to be held December 20.
“She brought a list of things we needed like deejay, food items and drinks to buy, which she submitted to me on Monday, the last time she was here and I told her I was passing her budget to the director for approval.
“If she lost her pregnancy for other reasons and she wants assistance, that is understandable; but not to arm twist the company and blackmail us. It is unfortunate that none of the media who have reported this story deemed it necessary to hear my side of the story,” he said.
Also making a case for the organisation, the human resources manager of Top Pan Printing, Mrs. Keziah Mbah, said Ossai was formerly a security guard posted to the company by Topzy Guards Ltd, before she was employed on April 13, 2013 and made a supervisor.
“How can you have an incident with your boss, which resulted in verbal query on Friday and you reported to work on Monday and early on Tuesday morning you lost a pregnancy we were not aware off and by 10am that same day, you had submitted a typed report to the police accusing your boss of kicking you. She told the world she had an emergency surgery in the early hours of December 16 when she spent the whole day at work reporting in the morning at 6:55am and logging out of the premises at 6:22pm.
“Because of this spurious claim, many companies run by Lebanese and other foreigners have decided not to engage women or even lay off the women on their employ, especially in Kano. In this country, whoever reports a story first is the victim, while no effort is made to balance the story before running with it.”
A statement by counsel to Top Pan, C.O. Toyin Pinheiro & Co, which was signed by Ifeoluwa Adebambo, said: “The decency and decorum that once a matter or allegation has come under a police investigation, a party should refrain from doing anything that may prejudice the on-going police investigation and that essentially has been the position of our client, TOPPANE Printing Nig Ltd, as regards the unfounded allegations against its General Manager, Mr. Kaveh Noime.
“The company would like to put it on record based on its own internal investigation that the General Manager had no physical interaction or contact whatsoever with Ms. Alexandra Ossai on the date alleged or at any other time, other than the fact that she was queried on the said date for dereliction of duty.
“The allegation of a physical assault remains a figment of Ms. Alexandra Ossai’s imagination. Our client does not intend to interfere with lawful investigation by relevant authorities, particularly the Nigerian Police; however, our client does not appreciate unguarded and inaccurate publications by the media and calls for a balanced coverage of same.”
Ossai had alleged that her boss is infamous at the company for insulting and physically assaulting employees. She said he is known for throwing scissors and other sharp objects at subordinates.
According to her, he treats his Nigerian subordinates with utter disdain, slapping and kicking them at the slightest provocation.
She said this particular case wasn’t the first time he assaulted her. Some months ago, she recalled, she punched her in the chest for something so insignificant she couldn’t remember what it was.
However, a Facebook interaction between her and her boss, which The Guardian stumbled on, reveals a cozy relationship. Few days before the reported incident, precisely on December 12, she had sent a Facebook message to her boss wishing him well ahead of the holidays.
Noine replied the message minutes later. Also, several pictures posted by the two to the social networking site were liked and commented on by Ossai and Noine.
The puzzle that remains to be solved and which may slow down police investigations is the delay by the hospital to issue a medical report on the emergency surgery performed on Ossai.
Four weeks after the surgery, the medical report is eagerly being awaited. Dr. Sheu Abdulkareem, the medical director of the clinic, said the medical report would be ready when the surgeon, who conducted the surgery, returned from his trip.
Despite popular views against him, Noine believes miscarriage can occur as a result of anything – emotional stress, lack of antenatal care or medical attention. He is ruling out a kick in the tummy, since according to him, it didn’t happen.
For now, Ossai has decided to stop her interaction with the media. All enquiries about developments relating to the case are being referred to her lawyer, Mr. Courage Erhuem, who has decided to be media shy. He too, is forwarding all enquiries to police officers in Area F, Lagos Command, who are investigating the matter.
According to him, the Lagos State Police Command has demanded the dead foetus of Alexandra Ossai’s seven-month pregnancy, which was removed during the emergency surgery last month.