Abuja Agog As NUPENG Celebrates 40 Years of Meritorious Unionism

The two-day 40th anniversary celebrations of the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) on December 5 and 6, 2018 in Abuja at the International Conference Centre had come and gone but not without recording huge attendance and success as planned.
The chosen anniversary theme to commemorate the epochal and landmark milestone was, “Nigeria Oil and Gas Workers; Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow,”.
Addressing the audience during the grand finale celebration on Thursday (Dec. 6, 2018) the President of the Union, Comrade (Prince) Williams Eniredonana Akporeha said;
“It has been four decades of unrelenting struggles in defense of the rights of our members and improvement of the working conditions of all oil and gas workers in Nigeria. Without sounding immodest, NUPENG has in the last four decades consistently and creditably contributed not only to the growth and development of the Nigeria Oil and Gas Industry, the enthronement of industrial peace and harmony in the Oil and Gas Industry but it has also positively impacted on the sociopolitical and economic development of Nigeria as a nation.”
He continued: “Legendary amongst the battles was the struggle for the restoration of the collective mandate of Nigerians freely and fairly given on June 12 1993. It was a battle we embarked in defense of democracy. The battle brought out the latent revolutionary capacity and posture of NUPENG with its sister organization, PENGASSAN.
While reminiscing on the past, Akporeha stated; “We suffered dearly for the courage and patriotic determination we exhibited in the June 12 struggle. So many of our comrades were beaten, brutalized, maimed,killed and detained without trials.
NUPENG was proscribed and leaders of the union, (President of NUPENG then), Comrade (Late) Wariebi Kojo Agamene and the then General Secretary of the union, Comrade Frank OvieKokori were arrested and made to suffer series of dehumanizing treatments in detention for four years.”
Comrade Akporeha however decried the continued casualisation of workers by oil companies, saying that the union would always fight for better working conditions of its members.
“The enormous challenges confronting our union, most especially with regards to the employers, government and general public perception of our enormous powers, influence and ever constant solidarity.
“We know that most often many employers are scared of relating with us and this wrong perception is sometimes responsible for the hostile attitude to our efforts in organizing their employees.
“In the light of this realization, our administration will embark on massive public image polishing and mending relationship with all aggrieved stakeholders.
“Our new mission is to ensure prosperity and good returns for everyone in the industry.
“We pledge to be more cooperative and collaborative in our dealings but without compromising on the best interest of our members and global labour best practices.
“We have further resolved to be more open and engaging in social dialogue with all stakeholders. We urge everyone, government, employers and the public to know that we are fully committed.
“That is in rendering efficient, effective and public/stakeholders friendly services to our dear country and its citizens,” he said.
Comrade Akporeha also used the medium to Express gratitude to God for availing him the opportunity to be the Union’s sitting President who would be at the helms of affairs during the celebrations.
“I am really overwhelmed and grateful to God that it is under my leadership that the forty years’ anniversary of our great union is being celebrated today and I sincerely want to thank our teaming members for making this possible. The Comrade President stated.
Meanwhile, NUPENG received fresh assurance from President Muhammadu Buhari who gave a pledge at the event through the Minister of Labour and Employment, Sen. Chris Ngige, that the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) would soon be signed into law once the bill is transmitted to the presidency maintaining that it would address most of the challenges of the oil workers and the industry as a whole.
Buhari further urged the workers to support his administration towards ensuring better welfare for workers and also commended the workers for the progress made, while urging them to dialogue instead of shutting down the country while in a dispute with their employers.
He said: “Certain revolutionary steps have been taken in the Oil industry which will aid the peaceful co-existence of employers and employees in the sector”.
 
Speaking as the Guest of Honour at the 40th Anniversary of NUPENG with a theme: “Nigeria Oil and Gas Workers; Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow “ President Buhari noted that employers and employees have a symbiotic relationship, as their mutual survival depended on a harmonious partnership between them.
 
He called on Labour to always dialogue instead of shutting down the country while in a dispute with their Employers.
 
“Mr President asked me to congratulate you on the celebrations of your 40 years in existence. He is a workers friendly President that is concern about better working condition for workers. He is a president that respect the rule of law and the law of the land. He promised to sign the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill once is brought to him.”

Also, former Head of State Yakubu Gowon called on the union to ensure availability of fuel supply during the yuletide season.

He added that owing to the recent spate of strikes, citizens were beginning to see NUPENG as a force for economic dislocation.
He urged them to embrace dialogue rather than using strike as a first option.
Governor Ifeanyi Okowa on his part noted that labour leaders have achieved more using dialogue rather than confrontations in addressing issues, stressing “I believe that the best unionists are those who learn to engage in dialogue and to that extent i must appreciate all the unions in Delta State for partnering with us through dialogue to help us derive peace and consolidate on the gains that have been made by previous administrations in our dear state”.
“Unionism is good and it is something that must be encouraged as a nation and in the various industries because without unions there will be chaos in work places. NUPENG is strong in pushing for the welfare of her members but we must have it in mind that as a union we have a lot of role to play in the affairs of the nation whenever we gather to discuss”, the governor added.
While congratulating NUPENG on its 40th anniversary celebrations, Governor Okowa commended the organisation for its maturity in handling labour issues stating “NUPENG has been a very reasonable union in the course of administering her members in this nation because there are some people when they do realise that they are a very important organisation as a union they can use it very wrongly to hold the nation to ransom but that has not been the drive of NUPENG and we thank God for that and that is why unions must partner with those in government in Nigeria in the interest of our nation.”
In addition, the anniversary extended various awards to both individuals and corporate organizations for their illustrious contributions to the growth and development of oil and gas industry in Nigeria President Mohammadu Buhari, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, Governor Simon Lalong, Maikanti Baru, Nyesom Wike, etc. Members of staff were also honoured with long service awards as well as the Union’s veterans.
However, just as it was planned the day 1 of the anniversary ceremonies witnessed wide array of activities like cultural dance competition among the 4 zonal councils of the Union, followed by a round table discussion with the topic, “Local Contents in Nigeria oil and gas industry; wherein lies interests of Nigeria workers?
This topic was exhaustively and passionately dealt with by the well selected discussants after a lead paper presentation by an erudite lawyer, Barrister Femi Falana (SAN). During this session discussants admonished key stakeholders in the industry especially NUPENG to take the bull by the horn and defend oil and gas workers’ rights no matter whose ox is gored.
Barrister Falana, who was the lead speaker regretted that in spite of the fact that oil was discovered in Nigeria over 60 years ago, the neo-colonial state has not made conscious efforts to control the petroleum industry, hence all the Acts promulgated and decree made to regulate the industry, have failed to give effect to local content in the petroleum industry.
 
Stressing the need to end the monopoly of oil and gas industry by foreign interest groups; he pointed out that the upstream industry has for decades functioned as an enclave economy with minimal impact on the wider industry.
 
Falana criticized President Buhari for his failure to sign the PIGB, adding that, “the refusal of President Buhari to sign the Petroleum Industry Bill into law is a major victory for the International Oil Companies (IOCs), which would have to do with new fiscal terms in favour of Nigeria, increasing local ownership of the oil and gas industry, and strict control of industrial waste and pollution of the oil producing communities.
 
He, however, advised NUPENG and PENGASSAN, to invest in the training of their members to acquire the requisite knowledge in petroleum technology, since the industry requires skilled staff in many areas.
 
He warned that unless oil workers and the Nigerian people are prepared to ensure the enforcement of the Nigeria Content Act and other relevant legislations and policies the foreign control of the oil and gas industry will not cease.
Apart from Falana, other participating discussants during the round-table included, Dr Kayode Ajulo, a legal practitioner and human rights activist, Mrs. Omabie Akpan from the Ministry of Labour, Comrade Owei Lakemfa, a seasoned trade unionist etc. The event equally had a session whereby Nigeria oil and gas tools, products and projects were exhibited by the industry stakeholders.
Some of those in attendance were the Union’s veterans, Comrade Ovie Frank Kokori, Comrade Joseph Akinlaja (Chairman of round table discussion), Comrade Isaac Aberare, Comrade Peter Akpatason, Comrade Joseph Ogbebor, representatives of National Union of Minesworkers of both South Africa and Ghana, President of PENGASSAN, Comrade Francis Olabode Johnson, National Chairman of PTD branch of NUPENG, Comrade (Otunba) Akanni Oladiti, among other dignitaries.

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