A former contract employee with Cormart Nigeria Limited, Peace Gabriel, has raised the alarm over an alleged attempt by her former supervisor, Mr. Patrick Ovie, to frame her for fraud.
Gabriel added that the development arose because she rejected Ovie’s alleged sexual advances.
PUNCH Metro gathered that Gabriel, a former merchandiser with Cormart, marketed the company’s goods in Ikorodu, Oshodi, Victoria Island and Ejigbo during her two-year stay at the firm.
She said, “The way we work, we usually go out to look for anyone we can convince to buy Cormart products. After selling the products to such people, you wait for two weeks and then go to collect the money from your customers.
“But if you supplied goods to someone who bought in substantial quantity, you can give them the company form to fill and they would be given one month to make their payments.”
Gabriel said some of her customers, whom she sold goods to worth over N200,000 at Ikorodu, however, absconded without paying. They were said to be traders whose shops were demolished following the expansion of the Ikorodu road.
She said, “When I sold the goods to them, I didn’t know that they would be affected by the road project. When I returned after two weeks, I was shocked to discover that their shops had been destroyed. So I called them on the telephone and asked them how I could reach them. They assured me that the money would be paid into my account and afterwards switched off their phones. I have not been able to reach them ever since.”
PUNCH Metro gathered that it was a policy at Cormart for every marketer to make reports of bad debts to their supervisor who would then assist in recovering the debt. In the event the supervisor was unable to do so, he was required to make a report to his superiors who would then take action.
Gabriel, however, alleged that when she reported her situation to Ovie, he refused to act, but instead, threatened that she would lose her job if she didn’t meet her monthly target. The problem was said to have begun in February 2013.
“I owed Cormart over N800,000 for the goods I had supplied. Since Ovie wasn’t cooperating, I had to enlist the help of the Iyaloja (market leader) at Ikorodu Market to assist me in recovering some of the money from traders in the market. As for those whose shops were demolished, I could no longer trace them. Gradually, I was able to reduce the debt to N623,000. All the while, Ovie would tell me that if I could just have an affair with him, he would help me sort things out, but I rejected his advances.
“In April 2013, Ovie told me I could no longer make supplies to my customers in other parts of Lagos until all my debt had been paid. My guarantors were even invited to the company and together with another senior manager, Mr. Veejay, we all agreed that I would pay N35,000 every month until all the debt had been paid. Thinking that I would still retain my job, I didn’t mind. My salary was N30,000 and I also received transport allowance of N12,000. So I thought the deduction would be made from my salary and that I would have some money left from my transport allowance to enable me move around.”
However, Ovie was allegedly invited into the meeting and asked if he would like to continue working with Gabriel. When he refused, Gabriel was dismissed on the spot.
“I was now out of a job and still had N623,000 to pay, but I kept at it. Presently what is left is N282,410. But all the while after I lost my job, Ovie kept harassing me. He would come to my sister’s house where I lived, trail me to my church and make sexual overtures. When I didn’t break under the pressure, he went to the Ajao Estate Police Division at Oshodi and reported me that I had defrauded the company. I was arrested and later bailed. Now he is insisting the matter be taken to court and I be charged for fraud. I never stole Cormart’s products; I am just being punished because I didn’t give in to Ovie,” Gabriel said.
When PUNCH Metro contacted the Head of Human Resources/Admin, Tropical General Investments, Dr. Ayo Iyiola, of which Cormart is a subsidiary, he said the case was no longer an issue for the company as Gabriel was no longer an employee.
Ovie on his part, however, said Gabriel had diverted the company’s goods; he however agreed that Gabriel had made payments and that the balance was about N282,410.
He said, “I investigated and discovered she never supplied goods to any customer. She diverted them. Her guarantors were even invited to a meeting so we could work out a solution. Unfortunately, they never kept to the agreement to repay the money. It was so bad that I had to go to their church to see if I could get their church members to appeal to them.
I even went to her house to try and get her sister to see reason. It was when all this failed that I made a report at the station. As for the sexual advances, I have nothing to say about it. ”
Calls made to the Lagos State Police Public Relations Officer, DSP Ngozi Braide, rang out, while a text message to her telephone was not replied as of press time.