Oil Workers Deny Meeting with FG, Begin Strike


·Talks rescheduled for today

Chineme Okafor in Abuja

The Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) yesterday said it did not hold any meeting with representatives of the federal government over its planned national strike, saying the industrial action will go ahead.

PENGASSAN stated in Abuja that no meeting was held yesterday between it and the government at the instance of the Ministries of Petroleum Resources and Labour and Employment as announced the day before by the government.

It said there was no way it could get all its executive members to attend the planned meeting summoned by the government in Abuja because it was a public holiday yesterday.

In a bid to avert the strike by oil workers, the government on Wednesday stated that it had scheduled a meeting with the oil workers in the boardroom of the Minister of Petroleum Resources located on the 11th floor of headquarters of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).

The meeting, according to the Deputy Director, Press and Public Relations in the Ministry of Labour and Employment, Samuel Olowookere, was to discuss the modalities for ending the lingering crisis in the petroleum sector.

But enquiries at the petroleum ministry showed that no meeting took place.

Sources including security officials at the ministry told THISDAY that they were unaware of the meeting and had nothing in their logbook for expected visitors of either NNPC or the ministry.

One of the security sources at the NNPC said: “If there is any meeting here today we will be told and the details of those to attend will be sent to us in order to ease clearance, but nothing of such was given.

“So there is no meeting whatsoever happening here today. If there is any, then it is not here.”

When THISDAY contacted the Public Relations Officer of PENGASSAN, Mr. Emmanuel Ojugbana, he informed THISDAY on the phone that the planned strike had commenced.

He said the impact of the strike was still minimal on the nation’s economy because of the public holiday, adding that when work resumes, the impact of the strike will be felt if nothing is done by government.

On the meeting convened by the government, Ojugbana said: “As far as I’m concerned there is no meeting with government.

“How can they send us a mail for a meeting that is meant to hold on Thursday morning on Wednesday evening? And mind you, they know that our executive members are not all in Abuja, our executive members are scattered across the country and couldn’t have convened today for the meeting.

“Anyway, the strike will be fully felt once work resumes and as for the meeting, I can confirm to you that there is no ongoing meeting between us and government.”

However, in another statement later yesterday, the labour ministry said the meeting with oil workers had been rescheduled to take place today.

It said the shift in date was in consideration of the season and the national holiday, reported the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).

“The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, and the Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, will now hold the crucial meeting with PENGASSAN leadership on Friday to find a lasting solution to the lingering problems affecting the oil and gas sector.

“The meeting will hold at the Minister’s Board Room, 11th floor, Ministry of Petroleum Resources, NNPC Towers, Abuja starting at 10 a.m,’’ it said.

The ministers, in the statement, appealed to the leadership of PENGASSAN to stay action on its strike in view of the ongoing negotiations and in the spirit of social dialogue.