Oil workers’ Unions, PENGASSAN, NUPENG on Tuesday boycotted the scheduled meeting with the federal government, rescheduled meeting for today.
Although no clear reasons was given for the unions’ absence from the meeting but that could be attributed to the earlier demands of poor state of refineries, roads and the non-passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), amongst others.
The meeting was however rescheduled for tomorrow but an oil industry source said that the unions would only meet any government delegation with President Goodluck Jonathan in attendance.
“Without the President in attendance, it will be another talk shop and we won’t accept that. The issues raised are too important to be subjected to a game of hide and seek,” the source said.
The Minister of Labour and Productivity Kabiru Turaki who called the meeting was absent at 11 am, the fixed time, but the Permanent Secretary of the ministry Clement Illoh and top officials of the ministry including those of the Petroleum Resources were all present.
After waiting for over an hour for the unions, Illoh announced the postponement of the meeting to tomorrow.
“This meeting was called by this ministry to trash out the issues that must have necessitated this current strike and other problems in the sector. However, this meeting has been postponed to Thursday, December 18th by 11am, we sincerely apologise for this postponement,” the permanent secretary said.
When contacted, the NUPENG President, Comrade Igwe Achese said the unions shunned the meeting because it would not have led to a fruitful outcome.
“We cannot be party to a meeting that will ultimately lead to nothing at the end of the day. What we want is to see is a situation where government makes commitment by implementing some of these demands we have raised not a series of meetings.
“It will surprise you to know that in the past eight months we have been meeting with the Minister of Petroleum Resources and other stakeholders in the petroleum industry yet these meetings yielded nothing.
“You heard the Ministry of Petroleum Resources bragging that there are over 17 oil vessels at the seaport waiting to discharge fuel, how do you explain the turnaround maintenance initiated by the government itself.
“We want to see regular supply of crude oil to the refineries so as to stop the importation of fuel from other countries which do not even have oil deposits in their soil. What is government doing about the turnaround maintenance it initiated and the Petroleum Industry Bill before the National Assembly,” he questioned.
Meanwhile, the department of the State Security (DSS) has made a firm appeal to the management of Total Nigeria to make good its part of an earlier agreement made with PENGASSAN and NUPENG which the service alleged is central to the current strike by the unions.
Addressing news men in Abuja yesterday, the spokes person of the service, Marilyn Ogar said; We want to state that in November, 2014, PENGASSEN had written to this service to make a formal complain about the transfer of Elo Victor Ogbonda to Lagos from Port Harcourt by Total, after she was elected as a Zonal executive of the union.
The transfer was seen as design by the union as an attempt by Total to frustrate 0gbonda from performing her functions at the union’s secretariat in Port Harcourt”
Ogar added that following the complain, the service called a meeting of the management of total, and the unions, where it was agreed that the requests of the union would be met by total, only for them to discover later that Total had reneged on the said agreement.
She said the service made concerted efforts to convince Total on the importance of the agreement but to no avail, resulting in the ongoing strike.
According to Ogar, the unions saw the transfer of Ogbonda from Lagos, after she wan the zonal elections of the union in the area.
She therefore appealed to Total to make good its promise and end the strike, to forestall current hardship it is causing Nigerians.