The supreme court has ordered the reinstatement of 860 employees sacked in 2000 by Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited.
In its judgement on Friday, the court also ordered the company to pay the staff all their due emoluments.
The workers had been variously employed by Mobil in the 1990s into the company’s security unit and were named supernumerary police officers.
In 2000, however, Mobil claimed it engaged the workers as spy police personnel and not as staff and had transferred their employment to the Nigeria police force.
The workers disputed the claim and dragged Mobil to court. A federal high court sitting in Akwa Ibom ruled in favour of Mobil in 2006.
Dissatisfied with the judgement, the workers, in 2009, took the matter to the court of appeal in Cross River state where the judgment of the federal high court was nullified.
The appeal court ordered Mobil to pay the workers all their outstanding allowances and salaries from when they were purportedly disengaged but the company appealed the judgement at the supreme court, insisting that the disengagement was in order.
But the apex court in its ruling held that the disengagement of the workers and their purported transfer to the police were illogical and illegal.
A five-man panel of the court led by Olabode Rhodes-Vivour said: “The summary of the facts is that the 1st to 15th respondents were employed by the appellants as supernumerary police officers and issued with appointment letters.
“Thereafter, it (appellants) tried to offload them (the 1st to 15th respondents) to the Nigeria police, a decision the Nigerian employees rejected. The lower court upheld their argument that they are not police officers, but the staff members of Mobil Nigeria Unlimited. So Mobil appealed to this court.
“After we have painstakingly looked at all the exhibits before us, including the appointment letters and we have also looked at the Police act as it relates to the mode of appointment of SPYs. We agree with the lower court that the respondents were employed by Mobil Nigeria Unlimited as their security staff.
“So, this appeal lacks merit and is hereby dismissed. The judgment of the lower court is upheld.”