Angered by a gradual withdrawal of foreign oil companies from the country, the Nigerian Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) has issued another notice of strike to the Federal Government.
NUPENG President, Igwe Atuche, disclosed in Abuja on Friday that the strike option became necessary to draw government attention to a brewing unemployment crisis in the oil sector if the trend of foreign divestment from the sector continues.
He said that the rate of recurrence of divestment of equity by some multinational oil companies was of concern to the union, arguing that the union believed that the trend was an effort to sabotage the effort of government in its drive to reposition the petroleum industry.
The union boss said the trend raised concerns on whether Nigeria will get the sector on track, adding that the implication of the divestment means Nigerians are going to lose their jobs and it would have a negative impact on the economic activities of the country.
He said the union was worried about what would happen to its members as it’s obvious that the multinational companies are out to make life difficult for Nigerians. He stressed that unless the Presidency set up a high powered team or delegation to look into the issues; the union may be forced to go on strike.
He also lamented the high level of insecurity which its members faced due to the ongoing divestment in the sector. He said, “We are actually planning a strike. Going by the recent development from the multi-national organisations where we believed that government has 60 per cent of this investment in Shell, Chevron, Mobil and other foreign companies. Today a lot of divestment is going on in that sector. In the last world economic summit Shell said they were going to divest about 1 billion in Nigeria. Our question is that who gave the approval to divest. As I speak to you up till this moment, there is serious divestment going in Shell, Chevron, Mobil, Total and Agip.”
Atuche said that by the time the union put together all its machinery in motion concerning the issues, the strike might be worse that the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASSU) strike.
He also accused the multi-national organisations of unfair labour practices among other ill treatment of Nigerian workers.
He accused them of enslaving some Nigerians who worked for it several years under casual, contract and service workers. Atuche added that with the ongoing divestment, the workers employed as casuals would end up going home without anything.
He reiterated that the union would fight on until workers right are respected in the sector.
The union leader also called on the government to do all it could to ensure that the refineries worked optimally. He noted that as at this moment, the performance of the refineries is nothing to write home about.
He noted that already a letter has been sent to President Goodluck Jonathan on Monday, February 10 and copied the Head of Service. Also copied according to Atuche, were Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke, the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Chief Emeka Wogu, the Minister of Labour and Productivity and the entire security agency to create the awareness on the union’s intentions.