Oil Workers Begin Strike Sept 13 as Abducted-Shell Staff Are Confirmed Dead
31 Aug 2006
Author: Victor Ahiuma-Young, Charles Ozoemena, Samuel Oyadongha & Jimitota Onoyume
THE nation's oil workers resolved, yesterday, to withdraw their services and shut down the petroleum and gas sector for three days from September 13. This is to protest the increasing violence and attacks on oil workers in the Niger Delta, the latest of which resulted in the death of a Community Relations Officer (CLO) of Shell, Mr Nelson Ujeya.
The company yesterday confirmed his death and recovery of his body from Letugbene in Bayelsa State on Tuesday night.
Similar sentiments on the violence in the region were expressed yesterday by President Olusegun Obasanjo at a meeting he held in Abuja with members of the Gulf of Guinea Energy Security Strategy (GGESS). He lamented the ease with which arms were getting into the region illegally.
Leaders of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) and the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) at a joint National Executive Council (NEC) meeting in Benin said the warning strike was to compel government to develop the political will to find a lasting solution to the un-ending crisis in the oil producing communities.
Other grievances of the oil sector unions include alleged sale of Eleme Petro-Chemical Company to a three-year-old company by the Bureau for Public Enterprises (BPE), pipeline vandalisation, government moves to convert the Petroleum Training Institute (PTI) in Effurun, Warri to a campus of the University of Benin, non-granting of autonomy to the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) and alleged increasing cases of expatriate quota abuse.
One source at the meeting said: "We have just resolved to embark on a three-day total warning to protest government's lack of political will to deal with the increasing violence and attacks on oil workers and installations in the Niger Delta region. We are using it as a warning strike to compel government to develop the political will to arrest the violence and find a lasting solution to the crisis in the region. You are aware that Comrade Nelson Ujeya was murdered after he was held hostage for over 12 days when he accompanied a delegation of Bayelsa State government on a joint mission on August 8, 2006.
"Our members are very apprehensive because of the development. We want government to guarantee us protection and also find solution to the problems of the region. If after the warning strike, government fails to garner the political will to deal with the problem, we would not hesitate to declare an indefinite action. In fact, some of our members are already at home because of this crisis," the source said.
Ujeya confirmed dead
Meanwhile, Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Ltd (SPDC) yesterday confirmed the death of Mr. Nelson Ujeya in the "security incident" of Sunday, August 20. In a statement, Head, Media Relations East, Mr. Joseph Ollor Bari, said the late Ujeya's body was one of those recovered from Letugbene last night (Tuesday), August 28, 2006.
He said: "Mr. Ujeya, who worked in our Western area of operation, was part of a Joint Investigation Visit (JIV) of officials of the Bayelsa State government, Department of Petroleum Resources, SPDC and community representatives to the Letugbene community. Unfortunately, at the end of the exercise, he was prevented from leaving by some members of the community.
"Working closely with government officials, we were anticipating his imminent release when we received reports of a clash between security forces and suspected militants on Sunday 20, August 2006.
"From available reports, Mr. Ujeya was said to be in a convoy of boats together with Bayelsa State government representatives, community chiefs and a number of militants, when there was an exchange of gunfire between some members of the Joint Task Force and the militants.
"We are deeply saddened by this incident and wish to extend our sincere condolences to the family and friends of the deceased. Our thoughts and prayers are with them at this very difficult period."
Obasanjo holds talks on N-Delta
As a strategy of beefing up more security in the Niger Delta, President Obasanjo, yesterday, met with members of the Gulf of Guinea Energy Security Strategy (GGESS), expressing concern over the supply of illegal weapons by the international arm dealers to the Niger Delta militants.
At the meeting held at the State House, Abuja, President Obasanjo said: "It is regrettable that some have fallen back to their old habits" and assured the international community that the Nigerian government was alive to ensure that the restiveness in the Niger Delta were curtailed.
"Again, we are doing everything possible to address this challenge and ensure peace in the region. The Gulf of Guinea Energy Security Strategy brings together the key players that must work together on the challenges that we face in the Niger Delta. ."
The GGESS was established in 2005 following growing unrest in the Niger Delta and the attendant political and economic implications. Originally formed by Nigeria and the United States, it was later joined by Britain. Currently, Canada, Switzerland, Netherlands and Norway are part of the meeting in Abuja as observers. They are expected to become full members after the current session.