By Victor Ahiuma-Young
Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, yesterday, announced immediate stoppage of fuel distribution and supply in Delta State, following alleged forceful evacuation of about 3,000 workers from the rigs by five drilling oil rigs being operated by Sterling Energy Exploration Company, SEEPCO, and its drilling arm, British Oil and Gas Limited in Kwale and Warri areas of Delta State.
At a briefing yesterday in Lagos, President of NUPENG, Prince Williams Okporeha, gave the Nigerian Army 24-hours ultimatum to withdraw its officers from the premises of SEEPCO, and BOGEL, allegedly used to forcefully evacuate and abruptly terminate workers’ appointments following their refusal to allow unionisation.
According to Akporeha, armed soldiers were currently distributing new employment forms of non-identification with union to the oil workers if they must remain on their jobs.
Describing the situation as unfortunate, Akporeha, said that the union had directed its members in Delta State to withdraw their services in protest of the unfortunate situation, adding that if the government refuses to call the oil firms to order, they will embark on a nationwide strike.
Akporeha, who expressed disappointment with the military for succumbing to the level of frustrating workers who identified with the law of belonging to the union, he said that the union had written to the Chief of Army Staff for his officers to be immediately removed from the oil firms, as the issue on ground was an industrial relation matter.
He also called on Delta State governor, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa, to immediately intervene, to avoid turning the state into an industrial crisis zone.
The union said it was also seeking the intervention of the Ministry of Labour and Employment, Group Managing Director, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, security agencies and other stakeholders in the oil and gas industry to arrest the imminent industrial crisis.
According to him, no country should allow investors operate without allowing workers’ rights on unionisation and NUPENG as a union will not fold its hands and allow it continue.
“We felt it is unfashionable in a democratic and decent society to bring soldiers to intimidate harmless workers and forced them out of employment, simply because they were asking for their rights.
“More than 3,000 workers are being pulled out of their jobs and the number is increasing daily. Nigerians must rise to stop this, especially now that the country is deepening its democratic practice. These are foreign investors who have come to shortchange the laws of the land,” he said.