The Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG Lagos chapter has threatened to down tools indefinitely over what it termed as the unlawful sack of some of its members in Delta state.
The threat was issued by the chairman of the Lagos state council of NUPENG, Mr. Tayo Aboyeji, who disclosed to newsmen that about 3000 workers were forcefully evacuated from the rigs by five drilling oil rigs in the Niger Delta.
According to him, the rigs were being operated by Sterling Energy Exploration Company, SEEPCO, and its drilling arm, British Oil and Gas Limited (BOGEL) in Kwale and Warri areas of Delta state.
Earlier on Thursday, the National President of NUPENG, Prince Williams Akporeha had given the Nigeria Army Nigerian Army a 24-hours ultimatum to withdraw its personnel from the premises of SEEPCO, and BOGEL to avert nationwide strike by the Union.
According to the Lagos state NUPENG chairman, the oil firms made use of the Nigeria Army personnel to forcefully evacuate and abruptly terminate workers’ appointments following the refusal of the oil firms to allow their workers join NUPENG.
Mr. Aboyeji said members of NUPENG in Lagos zone will withdraw their services to protest the sack of those oil workers in Delta because
NUPENG was one body committed to fighting injustice and abuse of the rights of oil workers across the country.
Excerpts from the statement given to the Press reads;
“NUPENG is one and an injury to one is injury to all. On our own, we cannot watch while our members are being sacked just because the company did not want our members to be unionised.
We will not condone victimisation of our members by the Nigeria Army or who ever gave them the directive it is the right of the workers to be unionise.
When has it become a norm for the military to go to a company and decide whether a worker should join a union or not, this is purely a civil and industrial matter.
Soldiers must vacate the company immediately and let the issue of the industrial matter be resolved between the union and the management of SEEPCO.
Otherwise the Lagos zone which comprises six states in Southwest and Kwara would be forced to join the action in solidarity with members in Delta and Warri zone.”
The zonal chairman however reiterated that the threat of strike was not an ultimatum but a means of persuading the general public to prevail on the hierarchy of the Nigeria Army to withdraw its officers and men from the company.
According to him;
“The failure would make our members in all branches including the petroleum tanker drivers to down tool.”
Speaking further Mr. Aboyeji urged the Federal Government to allow union activities to take place in the oil industry and also advised the management of SEEPCO to allow its workers to join NUPENG because it is their right.
He also urged the Lagos State government to prevail on the task force on Apapa gridlock to stop the alleged harassment, brutalisation and extortion of the union members while calling on the Federal Government to expedite action on the repair of Apapa roads to reduce incessant gridlock in the area.
Responding to the situation however, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has allayed fears of possible hiccups in petroleum products supply in parts of the country following the threat issued by NUPENG over a purported intervention by an arm of the security agencies in what the union viewed as purely labour matters involving a company and its workers in Delta State.
Mr. Ndu Ughamadu, the NNPC Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division, issued a statement in Abuja ion Friday that the NNPC Group Managing Director, Dr. Maikanti Baru and his Management team, were engaging the parties involved and they are close to resolving the issues.
Mr. Ughamadu therefore advised motorists and other consumers of petroleum products not to engage in panic buying as the NNPC Management was close to reaching an amicable resolution of the challenge.