The House of Representatives laboured in vain to stop the nationwide industrial action planed by Nigerian oil workers as the two main oil workers’ unions declared that they would down tool, beginning from today.
Oil production, loading and export will come to a halt meaning that Nigeria would lose about 2.25 million barrels of crude oil per day while the stay at home action lasts.
The workers have given the Federal Government a 21-day ultimatum to address the issue of insecurity of their members among others. The ultimatum had expired last Monday
The House Committee on Petroleum (upstream) led by its Chairman, Bassey Out, met with officials of Petroleum and National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas workers (NUPENG) and Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association (PENGASSAN) at the National Assembly on Tuesday and made them to consider the monumental crisis that the country would be plunged into should the two unions shut production and export of crude oil.
But the two unions gave the lawmakers a litany of gruesome attacks on their members and their families, including the vandalisation of oil and gas facilities and the break down of law and order in oil producing communities their members are operating from.
"We are not going on strike", said Comrade Peter Akpatassan, the President of NUPENG, "we are going to just stay away from work since we can no longer work with any assurance to the safety of our lives and that of our families
"Our Unions have become very frustrated on the failed guarantee and assurances by government on the security and under development issue in the challenge Niger Delta region", he said
He mentioned four cases of kidnappings of their members in the last four months including the shooting to death of an 11-year daughter of a member.
"Our member, Comrade Awonusi Samule was taking his children to school on January 29, 2009 when they were accosted by a gang of armed men that shot his 11-year daughter and kidnapped his nine-year old son. The son was released to the parents on Thursday February 5t 2009", he told the Reps members.
"The wife of our member, Mrs. Obomanu Comfort was kidnapped on Bende Street in Port Harcourt since August last year and has not been seen nor anything about her heard", he said.
"We believe that government has the capacity to protect us if it has the will power. "When we met with former President Olusegun Obasanjo before his exit, to intimate him about the rising insecurity around our member, he looked at us, and said, ‘come on, get out of here!’ ", he recalled, "now the situation has reached a point where we just have to stay away from work, but it’s unfortunate it would be at a great lost to our country"
"Shell Petroleum’s Utorogu Gas Plant in Ughelli was attacked on February 7 2008 with serious exchange of fire between the JTF and insurgents with three workers wounded in the attack.
"Following persistent shooting and attack on workers along the waterways and the Unions demand for evacuation of members for security and safety reasons, management was compelled to evacuate staff from work location", he said.
On his part the President of PENGASSAN, Babatunde Ogun, expressed the anger of his members mainly on what he described as the, "above the law" posture maintained by belpop/Conoil – an indigenous oil producing firm – when it refused to implement all the agreement that the Unions had entered with it and the Federal Government over the shoddy attitude the company had been treating its staff.
"This managing has defied the authority of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) and even that of the Presidency when they insisted he had to implement the agreements entered", he said.
"The owner of this company owns other big investments in Nigeria and has vowed that there will be no unions in any of his company. He acts as if he is above the law. And it is clearly so" he said.
Ogun said that, "statistics at our disposal show that the 0.1 percent on freight on board (FOB) allocated to the pre-shipment inspectors amount to 1,900 barrels per day based on the nation’s projected daily crude oil export of 1.9 million barrels per day. This in monetary term shows that Nigeria will lose $78,400 daily basis on the present market price of $46 per barrel. One can now wonder what the country will lose in a year with an increase in the price of crude oil."
Ogun said that all these issues have to be addressed before the strike is called off.