By Emma Amaize
WARRI—PAN NIGER Delta Forum, PANDEF, the umbrella body of leaders and stakeholders of ethnic nationalities of Niger Delta, has written to Chevron Nigeria Limited, CNL, demanding a meeting over complaints that 151 graduates of the region that underwent the company’s Vocational Training Programme, VTP, were being used as bond (slave) labour, rather than given employment, three to four years after they concluded the programme.
The body, in a letter by the national secretary, Dr. Alfred Mulade, to the Managing Director, Chevron, Mr. Jeff Ewing, said its intrusion was occasioned by an August 6 petition, entitled, “Marginalization of Forced Labour of Host Community Graduates by Chevron Nigeria Limited,” sent to it by the aggrieved graduates from Ijaw, Itsekiri, Ilaje and other tribes of the region.
PANDEF urged the Managing Director to convene a meeting between the company, its representatives and the trainees “to enable us look into the matter with a view to resolving it before it gets out of hand.”
The letter read, “We are in receipt of a petition dated August 6 , 2018 by the 31 coalition, a body comprising of Ijaw, Ilaje and Itsekiri graduates drawn from your host communities in Niger Delta and their colleagues from other parts of the region, who participated in the batches 5 and 6 of our Vocational Training Programme, VTP, otherwise referred to as VTP 5 and 6 of 101 and 50 trainees respectively, totaling 151 graduates.”
“The VTP 5 and 6 were engaged in March 2013 and July 2014 respectively and mobilized for a training duration of 18 months, domiciled at Ogere Training Centre, OTC, Ogun state, and were expected to complete their training sessions by August 2014 and 2015 respectively.
“The graduates having completed their respective trainings for the prescribed 18-month period are considered as level two technicians in mechanical maintenance, electrical instrumentation maintenance, process and health, environment and safety, but for about four years running, while compelling them to sign trainee/training contracts, they are being used as bonded labour with subtle threat of being dropped unilaterally should anyone raise her/her voice in defiance.”
PANDEF said that saddled with the moral responsibility to canvass the interests of the region, which made it to interface with the Federal Government in 2016 and produced the 16-point agenda that government was using as a working document on the region, “any issue bordering on employment and participation in the oil and gas industry was cardinal in its engagement with the government and oil companies.”