The Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) says it has secured the unconditional release of 21 staff of ExxonMobil who were detained by the Rivers State government last Thursday.
PENGASSAN in a statement by its President, Comrade Nduka Ohaeri and General Secretary, Comrade Lumumba Okugbawa on Sunday said with the release, the planned strike action it ordered on Saturday has been suspended.
The union disclosed that “at about 9am this morning April 19, 2020, with the intervention of relevant authorities an unconditional release was secured for all our members held hostage in a most horrible and inhuman condition since Thursday April 16, 2020 by Rivers State Government Authorities”.
ExpressDay recalls that the PENGASSAN had in earlier statement said effort to make the Rivers State government release the workers who were on essential duties has failed.
The union therefore ordered its members working oil export facilities to proceed on strike at midnight on Sunday with an industry wide strike action scheduled for noon on Monday.
The union said: “On Thursday the 16th of April 2020, we raised alarm over the illegal arrest and detention of 21 (19 male and 2 female) ExxonMobil personnel by the Rivers State Police Command on the pretext that they violated the State’s movement restriction Order put in place to curtail the spread of COVID-19; the allegation which runs contrary to the letters of the said Order which expressly exempted oil and gas workers on essential services.
“Recall that we issued an ultimatum dated April 18, 2020 notifying all stakeholders that we had directed all our members to withdraw all forms of services relating to crude oil production, refining, distribution and supplies effective 12 noon, Monday April 20.
“At about 9am this morning April 19, 2020, with the intervention of relevant authorities an unconditional release was secured for all our members held hostage in a most horrible and inhuman condition since Thursday April 16, 2020 by Rivers State Government Authorities.
“Having achieved the primary demand in our ultimatum, we hereby suspend the planned industrial action.
“We call of the Federal Government of Nigeria, relevant agencies and all Oil and Gas Industry stakeholders to guarantee unfettered movement of oil and gas workers on essential services in all territories of the federation if we are to continue to provide these services.
“We also call on the Federal Ministry of Health and Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to immediately adjust its COVID-19 testing protocol to include all offshore-going workers. This will prevent possible incidence of COVD-19 on oil installations with its grave consequences and eliminate need for 14-day self-isolation before travelling offshore with its attendant huge cost implications on organizations and psychological effect on workers.
The union thanked the Federal Government and other relevant authorities for their intervention and “thank all patriotic Nigerians who supported our cause.
“We salute our members for their show of maturity in the face of obvious and unwarranted provocation, especially the “MOBIL 21”
Governor Nyesome Wike had earlier threatened to charge the workers for entering the state illegally in breach of the Covid-19 lockdown.
Oil workers were designated as essential workers by President Muhammadu Buhari in a national broadcast.