April 19, 2020

PENGASSAN withdraws plan to shut down oil sector

By  Victor Young

Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, PENGASSAN, has suspended its plan to shut both the upstream and down sectors of the nation’s petroleum industry from Monday, after Rivers State government released the 22 offshore staff ExxonMobil detained since Thursday.

Twenty-one of the released workers are members of PENGASSAN, while the 22nd person is the Chief Security Officer, CSO, of the oil giant.

Before their release, PENGASSAN had, in the wee hours of Sunday, directed members to shut operations and all activities at the nation’s oil rigs and export terminals from midnight over the detention of 21 offshore members by the Rivers State Government since Thursday.

The umbrella body for senior workers in the nation’s oil and gas sector also directed members to withdraw all forms of services relating to crude oil production, refining, distribution and supplies from noon on Monday.

A statement by the association’s leadership on Sunday morning said, among others: “By midnight Sunday, April 19, 2020, all export facilities will stop operation as well as suspension of production and maintenance services reports.

“By 12 noon on Monday, 20th, all our members will withdraw all forms of services relating to crude oil production, refining, distribution and supplies.”

However, in a statement after the 22 offshore staff ExxonMobil were released, President and General Secretary of PENGASSAN, Ndukaku Ohaeri and Lumumba Okugbawa respectively, said among others: “On Thursday, April 16, 2020, we raised the alarm over the illegal arrest and detention of 21 (19 male and 2 female) ExxonMobil personnel by the Rivers State Police Command.

“They were arrested on the pretext that they violated the state’s movement restriction order put in place to curtail the spread of COVID-19. The allegation runs contrary to the letters of the said order, which expressly exempted oil and gas workers on essential services.

“Recall that we issued an ultimatum dated April 18, 2020 notifying all stakeholders that we had directed all our members to withdraw all forms of services relating to crude oil production, refining, distribution and supplies effective 12 noon, Monday, April 20.

“At about 9a.m. this (Sunday) morning, with the intervention of relevant authorities an unconditional release was secured for all our members held hostage in a most horrible and inhuman condition since Thursday, April 16, 2020 by Rivers State Government Authorities.

“Having achieved the primary demand in our ultimatum, we hereby suspend the planned industrial action.

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“We call on the Federal Government, relevant agencies and all oil and gas industry stakeholders to guarantee unfettered movement of oil and gas workers on essential services in all territories of the federation, if we are to continue to provide these services.

“We also call on the Federal Ministry of Health and Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, to immediately adjust its COVID-19 testing protocol to include all offshore-going workers.

“This will prevent possible incidence of COVD-19 on oil installations with its grave consequences and eliminate need for 14-day self-isolation before travelling offshore with its attendant huge cost implications on organisations and psychological effect on workers.

“We appreciate the Federal Government and other relevant authorities for their intervention and thank all patriotic Nigerians who supported our cause.

“We salute our members for their show of maturity in the face of obvious and unwarranted provocation, especially the MOBIL 21.”