|Art by Sugabelly|
Thursday, 10 November 2011
THE DAY THE MULE KICKED (A TALE OF TWO LAWYERS)
Guest written by Ken Uzim
The New Recruit had a fancy Masters’ degree and a funny accent. Bespoke tailoring and a top-of-the-range mobile office. In the words of the HR Manager, he was “…brimming with the sartorial urbanity of a supremely confident professional and possessed demonstrable expertise in telecoms law. A most invaluable addition to the pool of specialists required for exponential growth of the Office’s business”.
The Chairman approved and they hired him on the spot. They made him a Senior Manager, four cadres above the long-suffering office mule, Eze. Eze, whose only claim to ‘offshore content’ was a laminated cardboard ‘Identification Tag’ dangling from a loop of colored rope, which was given to him during a workshop on the modalities for cross-border network expansion that he attended in the Niger Republic.
How Eze so cherished that offshore badge of honor! It had a pride of place at his workstation. It represented the one and only time, in his five years of drudgery in the Office –without promotion or pay rise - that he had traveled beyond the shores of the country on business. It mattered not to him that the journey involved a Chanchangi flight to Sokoto via Abuja and an overland, twelve hour trip in an open Hilux truck through the rugged rocky plains of no-man’s land that separated our French-speaking neighbors from the Northern borders.
Eze was proud of the trip, nonetheless and took several snapshots of the giraffes whose – in his words, “majestic” – strides across the road, constantly punctuated the journey. He would be quick to retort at any meddlesome inquirer seeking to mock his means of travel that he would not have beholden any of those ‘majestic’ creatures if he had travelled by air. Not like Eze could have travelled by air anyways. You see, there was no direct commercial flight from here to Niger; so, you would have to fly Air France to Paris and connect Niamey but Eze was considered too small a fry in the Office’s pond for such an executive treatment. Eze insisted he would still choose to travel by road should he ever have the opportunity again. As if he had a say in the matter!
Eze’s workstation was a box-sized cube in the Office’s shop floor, crammed end-to-end with burgeoning paper files. His writing desk, oftentimes, was on his laps as the only available free space on his table was already taken up by the keyboard. The Office was cutting costs, you see, and believed in optimal utilization of every square inch of the premium space. The New Recruit, however, had a corner space to himself, an enclosed cubicle with an oversized mahogany desk and fireproof filing cabinets. Unlike Eze, the New Recruit had a well-stocked refrigerator for ‘refresher time-outs’ and a dedicated air-conditioning unit not subject to the petulant whims of the central cooling system.
It was true that Eze had no post-graduate training, whether offshore or otherwise, nor did he possess the affable dapperness of the New Recruit, but Eze had grown on the job: poring over files and relevant laws, being hands-on in regard to legal issues touching on the Office’s telecommunication business and making good friends with experience. However, the powers-that-be believed that Eze’s ‘wealth of on-the-job experience’ was trumped by the glossy embossed certificate, issued to the New Recruit by one outlandish university in the remote reaches of the United Kingdom.
And so it was that Eze’s monthly pay remained a paltry fraction of the New Recruit’s weekend allowance. Was Eze grumbling? No. Was he envious? May be. Was he moved to spite? To resentment? If he was, he masked them well. He remained his old self, slowly and silently being buried under the mounting pile of paperwork that overran his desk.
By and by, it came to be that the Overlord of the Penthouse, as the Chairman was known, found out that the Office was being owed arrears of interconnect debts running into hundreds of millions of Naira. The errant debtor, despite collecting and aggregating these monies up front at the time calls were terminated, had failed to remit the Office’s share. The Overlord was livid. It was bad enough that he had to find out by himself that a liability of such magnitude existed in favor of the Office but what he found ‘criminally unpardonable’ was that none of his Executives or mid-management staff had brought the spiraling debt to his attention.
Legal, give me advice ASAP on what can be done immediately to mitigate our losses!
The New Recruit’s return mail was brisk: Disconnect them from the Networks, sir.
Meanwhile, Eze, who had received the same email from the Overlord wrote a reply to the New Recruit ‘for-your-eyes-only’ pointing out that the NCC regulations forbade disconnection of interconnect partners by operators on any ground whatsoever without recourse to the Commission, but the email went straight to the New Recruit’s junk mail folder, where, he had directed all emails from the disdained mule.
And so it was that the interconnect partner got disconnected, subscribers who couldn’t access the interconnect network complained and it got to the ears of the NCC who investigated what had happened and found out there had been a disconnection and instantly slammed the Office with a hefty fine for breach of regulations and advertised the fine in the National dailies, for deterrence.
The Overlord was mightily embarrassed. The Office inquisition was short and swift. The New Recruit was summarily dismissed for giving wrong legal advice and for ignoring the email warning against unilateral disconnection. Eze was promoted two levels with increased benefits.
But Eze submitted his resignation letter that same day and walked out of the Office taking only the keepsake from the Niger Republic.
They say he now runs his own private practice advisory on telecommunication laws.