Port Harcourt — The Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, PENGASSAN, has threatened to order it members out of all oil platforms, rigs and other facilities in the country, if the Rivers State Government does not release the 22 ExxonMobil staff arrested in the State.
This as the Rivers State Government announced the arrest of 22 staff of ExxonMobil, who are being kept at a centre to be quarantined for 14days, for allegedly flouting the State’s Executive Order on COVID-19.
SweetCrude Reports gathered that the oil workers were arrested by the Rivers State Commissioner of Police and other security agencies, during an inspection at the boundary between Rivers and Akwa-Ibom state, after returning from offshore at Eket.
But PENGASSAN has wondered why oil workers would be arrested, whereas both the Federal and Rivers State Governments have detailed oil workers as essential workers, hence, exempted from the total lockdown directives.
PENGASSAN President, Mr Ndukaku Ohaeri and Secretary, Lumumba Okugbawa, recalled that before this incident, 10 of its members on board Caverton helicopter were lastweek arrested in Rivers State, on the guise of sustaining the war against the COVID-19 pandemic.
They, therefore, charged the Federal Government and other stakeholders to urgently prevail on the security agencies and Rivers State government, to stop forthwith what they described as ‘unpleasant anti-workers and economic posture which also amounts to hostage taking.’
“The Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria is highly embarrassed over the continuous harassment of our members in the Oil and Gas industry especially the most recent ones with our members in Tecon Oil Company and Exxonmobil on essential duty.
“Yesterday, about 21 of our members from Exxon Mobil on essential duty coming into Port Harcourt for ‘quarantine’ before going offshore were arrested by men of the Nigeria Security Agencies, under the Rivers State Police Command on the pretext of enforcing the State Government directives on the Executive Orders assumedly proclaimed by the State on the wake of the Corona Virus pandemic.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the Federal and State Governments lists detailing category of persons exempted from the total lockdown directives includes senior staff in oil and gas industry which PENGASSAN represents.
“We are therefore miffed that operatives of Government Security Agencies who are vested with the responsibilities to enforce laws should turn around to intimidate and harass our members who are on legitimate and patriotic duties as essential workers. Only statesmen with National interest will venture out of their comfort zones during this period of global pandemic and National emergency.
“Our association condemns this new form of intimidation and therefore demand an unconditional release of all the 21 staff of ExxonMobil still under detention with apologies.
“We warn that should this high level of intimidation and harassment persists, PENGASSAN will in consultation with our sister union in the sector have no option than order our members out of the various oil platforms, rigs and other facilities without further notices.
“We implore the Federal Government and all interested stakeholders to as a matter of economic and national urgency, prevail on the all Security Agencies in Rivers State and all other states to stop forthwith this unpleasant anti-workers and economic posture that also amounts to hostage taking.”
The Association also demand the establishment of COVID-19 Testing Centre in Port Harcourt, where all oil and gas workers going to rigs, offshore platforms etc, can be tested.
According to PENGASSAN, it was better for oil workers to be tested at these centres, “before sending them to work locations as against quarantining them for two weeks before going to work with attendant psychological and cost implications on workers and organizations respectively.”
“Finally we seek that every law and legislation should have a human face,” PENGASSAN said.