An Egyptian contractor, Marco Zoccoli, has threatened to drag his country into a dispute with a Nigerian businessman, Sani Dangote.
Mr. Zoccoli is accusing Mr. Dangote of betrayal of trust, rights infringement, and breach of contract.
The development is coming four years after both men entered into a business partnership.
Mr. 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 seen by PREMIUM TIMES, Mr. Zoccoli accused Mr. Dangote’s NPS of owing him N30 million.
also accused Mr. Dangote and his company of abusing his fundamental rights by withholding his international passport for over two years and threatening to throw him out of Nigeria without full payment for a three-year contract between both parties signed in September 2014.
Mr. Zoccoli, who was first introduced to PREMIUM TIMES by his wife, Ijeoma, spoke to this newspaper in an exclusive interview translated by the wife.
According to his accounts, Mr. Zoccoli joined Mr. Dangote’s company after the Nigerian businessman 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,” Mr. Zoccoli said.
He said Mr. Dangote promised to match the salary in his previous employment with the one he was to be paid in the contract. According to Mr. Zoccoli, the Nigerian businessman also promised to increase his salary over time.
However, a few months into his employment Mr. Zoccoli said 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,” Mr. Zoccoli told PREMIUM TIMES.
“NPS deals with the production of timber and Dansa Agro Allied deals on the plantation. I worked as Managing Director of a branch of the NPS for Mr. Dangote’s organization. I also did the concrete work foundation for the installations during the time before the machines for my work was brought,” Mr. Zoccoli added.
According to Mr. Zoccoli, Mr. 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,” Mr. Zoccoli said.
When the company eventually decided to install the machine, following threats by Mr. Zoccoli to resign from the contracts, the Egyptian said, a majority of the workers had embarked on industrial action because the company had a reputation for owing its workers.
Consequently, Mr. Zoccoli said, 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,” Mr. Zoccoli said.
Despite the health challenge, Mr. Zoccoli said he continued the work after his treatment at a Lagos teaching hospital which was partly funded by Mr. Dangote’s company.