16 May 2014, Lagos – There is a looming crisis in Indorama Eleme Petrochemicals Company Limited following the alleged interference in the affairs of the company branch of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) by the traditional ruler of the Eleme Kingdom, His Royal Majesty, Samuel Ejiri.
This is coming as the Rivers State Council of the Trade Union Congress (TUC) of Nigeria has petitioned the Rivers State Commissioner of Police for the assault on PENGASSAN officers and members by youths of the community disrupted the branch union’s election on May 10, 2014 on the directives of the traditional ruler.
In a document obtained by THISDAY, the traditional ruler had in a letter dated May 6, 2014, which was personally signed by him and copied to Indorama management, requested the Zonal Chairman of PENGASSAN to reserve five out of the 11 elective positions to Eleme indigenes in the company.
Titled “A case of imbalance and marginalisation of the Eleme workers in Indorama Eleme Petrochemical Limited senior staff union PENGASSAN: The Eleme position,” the traditional ruler accused the branch union of marginalising his people working in the company.
He acknowledged that his people working in the company are not capable of winning elections because of their small population and urged the union to reserve the positions of chairman, industrial relations officer, treasurer, financial secretary and assistant secretary to Eleme people.
However, the physical intervention of the traditional ruler was fueled by a letter dated the same May 6, 2014 by Indorama Eleme Workers Association, requesting the royal father and his council of chiefs to intervene in the election scheduled for May 10, 2014.
The letter, which was signed by Cyrus Kanwi and Osaro Agba, noted that the Eleme workers “are in a union, where the non-indigenes believe that no Eleme worker can ascend to any elective office when it comes to election matters.”
“Their reason is that the Eleme workers in the senior staff cadre of the company are few (25 people among 304 PENGASSAN IEPL members),” the letter added.
“Our strength is small in this area and we are continually been ridiculed by our fellow Nigerian workers, hence the basis for our demand; that concession on five offices be given to the Eleme workers out of the 11 offices,” the Eleme workers pointed out.
Following the violence and disruption of the May 10 PENGASSAN election, the chairman of the Rivers State Council of TUC, Comrade Chika Onuegbu, has petitioned the state commissioner of police, accusing the traditional ruler of being behind the attack on its officers and members.
He accused the traditional ruler of sending five youth and their accomplices to disrupt the election and attack the union officials and urged the commissioner of police to bring the perpetrators of the violence to justice.
When contacted, spokesman of the company, Jossy Nwocha, told THISDAY that the company had already condemned the attack on PENGASAN officials and members, adding that the management has no interest in any particular candidates.
“The management provided the union with a venue to hold the elections because we regard the workers as partners in progress. We condemn the incident and have tried to call a meeting of all the contending parties to resolve the matter,” he said.
When contacted on his mobile phone, the traditional ruler, who spoke through his son, told THISDAY that he had no hands in the fracas.
“The traditional ruler is the most peaceful in the region and was not even aware of the fracas. The traditional ruler wrote a letter as the father of Eleme people but the unions did not acknowledge or reply the letter. They went ahead to conduct their elections without even informing the traditional ruler so that he can send a representative.
“The Eleme people approached Comrade Onuegbu for the positions they requested for and he demanded N5 million bribe. They protested because they felt that their royal father has been slighted,” he said.
– Ejiofor Alike, This Day