Full Text of Welcome Address by NUPENG National President, Comrade Williams Akporeha During The Union’s 40th Anniversaryemmanuel ajibule
WELCOME ADDRESS BY THE NATIONAL PRESIDENT OF NUPENG, COMRADE (PRINCE) WILLIAMS AKPOREHA AT THE 40TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION OF THE UNION HELD AT THE INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE CENTRE, ABUJA ON THURSDAY 6TH DECEMBER, 2018.
I am specially honoured and highly privileged to, on behalf of the National Executive Council and irrepressible members of our great union, welcome these distinguished arrays of very important personalities from every walks of life to the 40th Anniversary celebration of the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, holding today, the 6th day of December 2018.
First of all, with profound love and deep appreciation, we welcome the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari, to our historic 40th Anniversary celebration.
Without any doubt,President Muhammadu Buhari is a globally celebrated man of integrity and outstanding devotion to the services of this country. We can confidently affirm that President Muhammadu Buhari is silently, consistently and rigorously laying very solid and positive foundation for a new Nigeria, that the current generation and those yet unborn will live to appreciate and cherish.
The entire productive workers of Nigeria Oil and Gas Industry, appreciate and celebrate your distinguished presence at this occasion sir.
In the same manner, with all sense of humility, respect, love and appreciation, we also welcome General Yakubu Gowon, (GCFR) to this historic occasion. Having you physically present here today, your excellency, is a dream come true and very remarkable in so many areas. One major area is the nostalgic memory of how hard your Excellency worked and is still working to keep us “Going OnWith One Nigeria” (G.O.W.O.N.).
The entire rank and file members of the productive workers of the Nigeria Oil and Gas Industry are eternally indebted to you sir. We profoundly thank and appreciate you for sparing time and efforts to be the chairman of our 40th anniversary celebration.
May I use this opportunity to officially announced to the distinguished gathering, that the entire productive workers of the Nigeria Oil and Gas Industry is very pleased to confer on your Excellency the award of PEACE AMBASSADOR OF NIGERIA in recognition of your untiring efforts to ensure that peace reign in our country.
Your excellencies and my fellow comrades, again and again I welcome you all.
There is no doubt in the fact that the Nigeria Oil and Gas Industry has recorded significant growth and development from the first time Crude Oil was discovered in commercial quantity. This giant strides in the industry have been made possible by numerous individuals and corporate organisations, who, through ingenious creativities added improved value to several Oil and Gas Tools, Products and Projects in Nigeria.
In retrospect, NUPENG was among the 42 Industrial unions that came into existence in 1978 during the restructuring. It was formally registered as a Trade Union on 15th August, 1978 with a vision to enlarge its frontiers in the promotion and protection of members’ trade union rights in the oil and gas industry and the nation in general. That is why the theme for the Anniversary has been aptly tagged “Nigeria Oil and Gas Workers, Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow”.
We all recall with great sense of fulfilment and accomplishment, that before the birth of this union on that fateful day in 1978 at the celebrated Cultural Centre, in the ancient city of Benin, the Edo State capital, the voices of workers in the Oil and Gas Industry were generally muted and their rights virtually not existing.
Cases of extortion, detention, intimidation and harassment in the hands of security agencies by Oil and Gas workers, most especially the Petroleum Tanker Drivers were very rampant then. Any form of workers grouping or association were generally frown at and anyone found toying with the idea were usually dealt with severely.
Workers were never given opportunity to discuss or have inputs in their working conditions or job processes. Salaries, allowances, job duration and security were strictly the prerogatives of the employers.
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.
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.
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.
The nine-week nation-wide strike against the military junta to a very large extent was very successful and highly patriotic, the memories of which we still savour till date and the outcome of which contributed significantly to the current democratic dispensation of more than two decades of uninterrupted civil rule in Nigeria.
Going down memory lane, there are still so many other struggles, majority of which were for the unionization and improvement in the working conditions of Workers in the Oil and Gas Industry against the stiff resistance of both foreign and indigenous companies. We are glad that many of these struggles resulted in making NUPENG the doyen of industrial unions globally.
My fellow Comrades and elders, I warmly congratulate you once again, indeed, in the course of these four decades, despite all challenges and obstacles on our ways, our solidarity remains ever constant like the northern star, our resolve unshaken, our unity unruffled, integrity intact and we remain indomitable and irrepressible as any industrial union will ever dream to be. In the light of these, we deserve to celebrate and felicitate together, and this we are here to do today.
However, one major hydra headed monster we have been confronting for over two decades now is the titanic struggle against casualization and indecent employment in the Nigeria Oil and Gas Industry. Unknown to many of us seated here today, NUPENG is fighting seriously against forces that are hell bent in sending it into extinction. Our membership has been seriously depleted due to the challenges of this anti-union employment policies of both indigenous and foreign companies.
Distinguished Guests and fellow Comrades, when we came on board on the 6th day of April this year, we came in with full knowledge of 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 willembark on massive public image polishing and mending relationship with allpassived 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 general public to know that we are fully committed to rendering efficient, effective and public/stakeholders friendly services to our dear country and its citizens.
To make the objective realizable, we have recruited new, young, well educated, vibrant staff to meet the challenges of modern-day industrial relations practice and adequately prepare ground for tomorrow.
We are also not in doubt about the declining revenues into the union coffers and the huge financial requirement needed to render qualitative and quantitative services to our members. It’s the full realization of the financial status of the union that have made us to decide to diversify the sources of our little income by engaging in one form of business or the other.
It is our firm belief that this will also help in the areas of job creation and empowerment of our teaming youths. In this regard, It’s our desired to build an ultra-modern tanker park in four zonal councils of our areas of operations in Lagos, Port Harcourt, Warri and Kaduna. We have already secured large expanse of land in Port Harcourt for these projects and other zones are in process.
This initiative when carried out and completed will help to create jobs for the youths, help in engendering the development of petty businesses for our women, save the state from the environmental hazards of indiscriminate parking of Petroleum Tankers in the Country and also generate revenue into the coffers of every layers of government as each of the ultra-modern Parks when completed will accommodate parking space for not less than a thousand petroleum trucks with accompanied facilities like hotel, fire service station, restaurants, service bay/ station and other supporting facilities.
As we are all aware, NUPENG has comparative advantage to draw leverage in terms of engaging in petroleum marketing business, in the light of this, it is in our plan of action to build in some strategic places in some of our major cities, mega filling stations with all modern facilities. This we believe will also help to reduce the pressure of job creation on the government.
On taking over the administration of the union, we also observed that our national Secretariat needs urgent upgrading to meet current challenges and realities as the present structure is failing and dilapidating. Therefore,it is our plan to bequeath a befitting national Secretariat to our members. We intend to commence the process of erecting a new Secretariat in couple of months to come.
With all these lofty and noble plans, we have set for tomorrow, we know we cannot achieve it all by our efforts alone, we need all our friends and other players in and outside the Oil and Gas Industry. To these ends we want to solicit for your financial support in the N25 billion fund-raising we have set for today to achieve these dreams. The realization of these dreams will be to service to our nation and humanity in general, kindly support us generously.
Today as we celebrate, we also wish to commend and appreciate these creative individuals and Companies for their inestimable contributions to the growth and development of the Nigeria Oil and Gas Industry. This industry has indeed grown, although not to our desired expectation and this inform our continuous plea for the much-desired reform in the industry for the purposes of engendering ease of doing business, transparency, accountability and appreciable returns/dividends on investment in the industry.
In the same vein my highly respected guest and comrades, it is very obvious that we would not have been here celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Union if not for the path-finding and pacesetting efforts and sacrifices of our founding fathers. These men of vision and mission, against all odds and in the face of intimidating forces of Capital took the giant steps of building a great Industrial Union that’s known all over now as NUPENG.
It is on this sweet memory note, that I salute the courage, resilience and commitment of the founding fathers, (both living and dead) of this great Union. Today as always, we cherish and celebrate these worthy Comrades and leaders of men, who fought through thick and thin in creating a very credible and strong voice for the Oil and Gas workers in this country.
Some of these distinguished comrades are in our hall of heroes today. Through their efforts, sacrifices and self-denials, sometimes at the risk of their lives, the story line for the Nigeria Oil and Gas workers changed dramatically for good. These great leaders include Comrades John EnasDubre, the founding President of our great union, Comrade S.A Dada, Comrade (Late) U.M Okoro of blessed memory, (Who further in his career, became PENGASSAN, President) (Late) Comrade Wariebi Kojo Agamene, the lion of Amasoma, Comrade Brisibe Awe, Comrade (Honourable) Peter Akpatason and Comrade IgweAchese.
Our hall of heroes, also has very special place and recognition, for the Custodians of the Union constitution, culture, history and traditions. These are technocrats who toiled day and night for the realization and sustenance of NUPENG dreams, these include, the founding General Secretary of the Union. Comrade (Late) S.A Otu, the great Comrade Frank OvieKokori, Comrade (Honourable) Joseph Akinlaja, (The man who uses proverbs to unties knotty issues in similar manner we use palm oil to eat roasted yam) Comrade (Late Elijah Okougbo), Comrade Isaac Aberare and Comrade Joseph Ogbebor.
These men laid the foundation for the struggle that we have continued to carry on with till today. I salute you great comrades and veteran of so many struggles and the Union celebrate you as well as you join us to celebrate the rebranded NUPENG.
Finally, 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. According to Albert Einstein,“life is like a bicycle and to keep your balance you must keep moving”.
I pledge once again on behalf of the National Executive Council of NUPENG that we will not let you down as we assure you of our die-hard commitment to keep flying the flag of our Union to a greater height.
Once again, I thank you all for your attention and God bless.
Long live NUPENG!
Long live Nigeria Workers!!
Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria!!!
We shall overcome for our solidarity remains constant.