By Oji Odu
Nigerians would have woken up today, Monday, September 24, 2018 to find that the dreaded long queues at the petrol stations which had in the near past almost shut down the nation have, again surfaced, maybe for the timely intervention of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
The Group Managing Director (GMD) of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Maikanti Baru, had pleaded with the oil workers under the auspices of the NUPENG and PENGASSAN to shelve their planned industrial action over a labour dispute involving the management of Chevron Nigeria Limited (CNL), a multi-national oil company operating in Nigeria, and its staff.
In a statement issued by NNPC’s spokesperson, Ndu Ughamadu, the corporation’s GMD had directed its management to work with other stakeholders to resolve the issue raised by the leadership of the oil industry unions.
While thanking the oil workers for their exemplary conduct and show of support through the years, the Baru appealed to the unions not to do anything that would disrupt the industrial harmony that has pervaded the sector, because the gains of recent past could be frittered away inadvertently if care is not taken. He however, was optimistic that the dispute would be settled soon Baru expressed optimism that the current dispute would soon be amicably settled.
Both the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) and its counterpart, Petroleum and National Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) had planned to begin an indefinite strike to protest anti-labour activities of Chevron Nigeria Limiled (CNL) and its plan to sack thousand of its Nigerian oil workers.
The unions had recently called on the National Assembly, Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources and the Department of State Services (DSS) to intervene in the brewing trouble between CNL and its staff members in Nigeria
The disagreement stemed from the company’s disclosure that the contracts with all its manpower services providers would expire by the end of October, 2018. This means that they are going to be sacked because as it is usually the case, a new management will takeover who will likely recruit new staff into these positions.
Why should Chevron, an International Oil Company (IOC) that has operated in Nigeria for many years continue to be in the limelight for its notoriety in practicing anti-labour laws against its Nigerian workers? Why has government not the will to make both the company and its colleagues in the nations oil sector stop their task master/ slavery methods that have made the Nigerian worker a hopeless property which could be discarded at will by these foreign companies?
The Magazine learnt that the unions allege that the decision to sack the staff follows a directive from the National Petroleum Investment Management Services (NAPIMS), a subsidiary of the NNPC, and the Nigeria Content Developing and Monitoring Board (NCDMB).
According to them, rather than keep up with an agreement to roll over contract workers, whose terms of service end on October 31, 2018, the multinational has decided to higher new casual staff.
The unions are angry because Chevron’s decision disregards the intervention of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, while alleging that the oil company decided to sack the contract staff, instead of triggering the ‘roll over’ provision. For this, they described the move by the firm as “cruel, callous and by all standards an affront on the Nigerian constituted authority and industry extant rules”.
The statement read: “Without mincing words, we are deeply bothered by the purported claims being peddled around by Chevron Management that their action of sacking Nigerian workers is a directive from National Petroleum Investment Management Services (NAPIMS) and the Nigeria Content Developing and Monitoring Board (NCDMB). We then begin to wonder if the role of these reputable government agencies is to create jobs for Nigerians or to compound unemployment situation which is already prevalent in the country.”
The unions notified the public that they will not hesitate to embark on a nationwide strike if Chevron carries out its threat as its members remain on red alert if it happens. “As proactive unions that have interest of the nation at heart, we found it appropriate to use this avenue to appeal to the National Assembly, Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Department of State Services (DSS), and other relevant authorities to prevail on Chevron Nigeria Limited to toe the line of best endeavour, by exercising restraints and engage in peaceful transition into new contract circle,” it added.
Speaking to the Magazine on the issue, Kaliwo James, an oil expert queried Chevrons claim that they were acting on orders from NAPIMS and NCDMB. “ Although the claim is ridiculous, nothing is impossible in this country. This is especially so because the issue of contract staff has come to stay in Nigeria. Unfortunately, there is no one that comes to their slave labour because highly placed Nigerians are neck deep in the cartel,” he said.
He warned that government should strive to settle this problem both in the oil and gas sector and other sectors of the economy because of the rippling negative effects including security problems and unrest.