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Menace of Union crisis on economic development: ExxonMobil’s peculiar challenges

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By Ediri Ejoh

For the umpteenth time, workers under the aegis of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PEASSAN) last week Wednesday threatened to cut down the nation’s oil production by 660,000 barrels per day, picking of ExxonMobil Office in Lagos.

Addressing the workers during the protest, the PENGASSSAN Lagos Zonal Chairman, Comrade Abel Agarin, said his union members plan to gradually shut down the plants in Mobil locations all over the country.

He went ahead to proclaim that his members have started gradual withdrawal from oil and gas installations belonging to Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited, the Nigeria’s ExxonMobil arm.

“Currently, Mobil is one of the largest oil producing company in Nigeria with about 660,000 barrel per day (bpd). Nigeria’s revenue will be negatively impacted if the shut down by PENGASSAN is carried out.

“Our members have began gradual withdrawal from oil and gas installations belonging to Mobil in Nigeria. our members in the loading bay at Best Operations Platform (BOP), where crude oil is loaded have been withdrawn, while those in Erha and Ushan FPSO will be joining by midnight today and those in Bonny River Terminal will join by midnight Thursday. Final shut down will be with the withdrawal of our members in Qua Iboe Terminal with about 14 locations and many well ends by Friday midnight.

“By Friday, other International Oil Companies (IOCs) such as Chevron, Shell, Addax, Total and Agip and indigenous oil companies will join. We are also mobilising our members in Petroleum Product Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA), Petroleum Equalisation Fund (PEF), Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), and the National Petroleum Investment Management Services (NAPIMS),” he said.

According to the union, its members embarked on a three days warning strike on Wednesday to protest the refusal of the ExxonMobil management to honour an agreement reached during a tripartite meeting with the senior staff union and the Ministry of Labour and Productivity.

The Minister of Labour and Productivity, Dr. Chris Ngigi, was said to have brokered an agreement with the management of ExxonMobil last December where it was agreed that the sacked 83 employees of the company will be restated while none of the workers that participated in the protest in December will be sanctioned for their actions.

But the management of ExxonMobil seem to have a different understanding of the acclaimed agreement.

A top management of the oil company who spoke on the condition of anonymity wonder why the union think the interest of a few executive members should surpass that of the company and those of the nation.

According to him, while the union is threatening to shut down the company’s facility for their personal interest they fail to realise the enormous economic impact of their action directly in terms of revenue generation and foreign investment.

Which foreign investor will be willing to bring in their funds into Nigeria if they know that this is an environment where workers can beat up management staff without any kind of reprimands? He queried.

He noted that the current crisis is the handwork of five members of the union who broke the door to the office of the company’s chief executive threatening to beat him up in December when members went on strike.

The company has a code of ethics to which even staff coming in swore to adhere to, he stated. And as you know violation of such attracts the necessary punishment, he added. He stressed that leaving staffs to exhibit unhealthy workplace behaviour just because one is a member of a union is not acceptable to a multinational corporation like ExxonMobil.

Meanwhile experts have continued to express worries over the altitudes of labour unions leaders in the country especially those of the oil and gas sector.

Eze Onyekwere, Executive Director, Centre for Social Justice, said while the workers have a right to demand for good condition of service, they must not fail to have the interest of the nation at heart. He noted that there are other means of addressing workers grievances instead of strangulating the national economy.

According to him, operators of the oil and gas sector must understand how sensitive the sector is to the economy of Nigeria. He wondered if the members of PENGASSAN who are threatening to shut down 660,000bpd crude production capacity have taken out time to work out the financial implication of such loss to the nation when we are in recession.

Similarly, Dr. Daudu Garuba, Country Officer, Natural Resources Governance Institute, NRGI argues that such a threat coming from workers in the oil and gas sector now is not acceptable. According to him, whatever their grievances are the timing is wrong.

According to him, if the workers carryout their threat, the government will blame them for their inability to deliver on the 2017 budget which is yet to see the light of the day.

On his part, Adeola Abayomi, a public affair commentator expressed bitterness over what he called, “the continued holding to ransom the rest of Nigerians by the few workers in the oil and gas sector.

“How many times will these workers go on strike every year, he queried, PANGASSEN and NUPENG will go on strike for every selfish reason such as sack of one of their members, even when it is proven that such persons have violated the rules of the company that employed them.

“But this same union will not go on strike when the ordinary Nigerians do not have Kerosene or the prices of petroleum products are increased arbitrarily,” he stated.

Meanwhile, efforts to reach PENGASSSAN Lagos Zonal Chairman, Comrade Agarin, to find out the stands of the union after the expiration of the ultimatum proved abortive as call to his phone were not answered neither did he responded to SMS sent to him.

So, as the country brace up for another threat to its economic by members of PENGASSAN the question in the mind of the ordinary Nigerian is who suffers most from this action? The Staffs, IOCs, Nigeria Economy, Foreign Investment or the common man. There is no better time than now to take to rational thinking rather than selfish actions. The Change Must Begin With PENGASSAN.

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