FULL TEXT OF WELCOME ADDRESS BY COMRADE (PRINCE) WILLIAMS AKPOREHA, NATIONAL PRESIDENT OF NUPENG AT THE 5TH QUADRENNIAL DELEGATES’ CONFERENCE
WELCOME ADDRESS BY COMRADE (PRINCE) WILLIAMS AKPOREHA, NATIONAL PRESIDENT OF NUPENG AT THE 5TH QUADRENNIAL DELEGATES’ CONFERENCE HOLDING TODAY, TUESDAY 5TH APRIL, 2022 AT GOVERNMENT EVENT CENTRE, ASABA, DELTA STATE.
It gives me great pleasure to welcome The President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, H.E Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, your Excellencies, Executive Governors of Oil Producing States of the Federation, Honourable Ministers, Captains of our Industry, distinguished guests, my fellow Comrades and my highly respected Delegates to the 5th Quadrennial Delegates’ Conference of our great Union in the historic city of Asaba, the capital of Delta State.
I feel so proud and extremely joyous that I am a full-blooded Deltan when I see distinguished personalities gather here today, the creme de la creme of Nigeria Oil and Gas Industry, Economic Bureaucrats and Nigeria Labour movement today.
This pride and joy is made possible, courtesy of my amiable, hardworking, Labour Friendly and highly pragmatic Senior brother and governor of our great Delta State.
Your Excellency sir, our very dear Executive Governor of Delta State, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, the people’s Governor, on behalf of the rank-and-file members of the great NUPENG, I wish to express our profound appreciation to you for your kind gesture to host the 5th Quadrennial Delegates’ Conference of our great Union and for making your brother proud.
I must also specially appreciate, our dear Chief Executive Officer of the Nigeria National Petroleum Company, a Comrade and leader of excellence, Mallam Mele Kyari and his entire Management team for finding time to be here today and most especially for being our pillar of support and success in the last four years. There is no doubt in the fact that our story and success will never be complete without adequate and commendable mention of the great assistance and support of these wonderful people.
May I also use this platform to appreciate the Honourable Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator (Dr) Chris Ngige for the excellent services and support our Union received from the institution and the wonderful staff there, most especially during the period of Covid-19 Pandemic, when management were making serious attempts and efforts to declare redundancies and termination on the grounds of the pandemic. The Honourable Minister stood up to be counted as a strong pillar of support for the Union and the workers. We must also not forget to mention some particular individuals like the Director of Trade Union Services, (Mrs. C. Akpan) and the Registrar of Trade Union (Mr. Amos Falonipe) for their diligent and professional conducts and activities on the mandates of the Honorable Minister of Labour.
In demonstration of Trade Union democratic tradition and most importantly in line with the Constitutional provisions of our Union, the 5th Quadrennial Delegates’ Conference of our Union is being convened today at the very prestigious Government Event Centre, Okpanam Road, Asaba, Delta State, the 5th of April, 2022.
The National Delegates’ Conference is the highest organ of the Union and the democratic platform for the workers representatives to gather as delegates to brainstorm, debate, interrogate and set agendas/ mandates for the new leaders that will be elected at the conference to run the affairs of the Union for the next four (4) years.
The theme for the conference has been carefully and appropriately chosen to be “Just Energy Transition: Most Essential For Oil and Gas Workers Social Security and Welfare”. This theme is chosen in line with the new reality occasioned by climate change resulting in the global decision to address what is regarded as the major cause of the problem. It is in the informed scientific opinion of the global community that the current major sources of energy for industrial and domestic production is the main catalyst of the climatic changes the world is witnessing these days, therefore the need to transit to a more sustainable sources of energy for both industrial and domestic productions.
There is no doubt in the fact that the energy transition will have significant socio/economic costs for the people and the various levels of government, and this explains why global Trade Union movement is demanding for a Just Transition that will take into cognizance the socio/economic effect on the working people.
To adequately present this issue to us today, is an erudite Professor of Environment and Development, Professor Chuks Okereke. This is a man that has dedicated great part of his works and studies to the issue of Climate change and energy transition at the global and national levels.
THE JOURNEY SO FAR
For the records, this administration that is terminating today came into office precisely on the 6th of April, 2018 and to the glory of God and service to our members and humanity in general, we have been able to serve to the best of our ability.
- 40TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION OF THE UNION
Our first major task as we assumed office in 2018, was to organize a befitting 40th Anniversary celebration of the Union as it coincided with our emergence and to the glory of God, we were able to put up what was adjudged a wonderful anniversary celebration for the Union. At the celebration, we were able to bring together under one roof, Veterans of the Union who toiled so hard to build a very good foundation for the Union with the current Comrades who are struggling to keep the flag flying as of today.
It was a celebration of the old and the new as well as Friends and well-wishers of our great Union sitting together to chart a better and sustainable future for the great NUPENG. It was such a memorable celebration with Elder Stateman, General Yakubu Gowon (Rtd.) as the Chairman of that awesome anniversary and where some of you also here today honored us with your esteem presence in December, 2018.
Part of the mandate given to us at the anniversary by the entire old and new members was to build a new Tower befitting the brand and status of the Union.
The second mandate was to continue to defend and protect the job security and interests of our teeming members with all our powers and resources.
- INFRASTRUCTURAL DEVELOPMENT
It is my great pleasure to announce that arising from the 40th Anniversary, the leadership of the Union took up the initiative to build a new edifying National Secretariat for the Union christened the NUPENG TOWER.
However, there was a small challenge in the fact that, out of the four (4) Zonal Councils of the Union, it was only Kaduna Zone that was still in a rented apartment. The leadership felt that, for socio justice and equality amongst all the zones, we must as a duty to the Union, build a befitting Secretariat for Kaduna Zone as well. To the glory of God and service to our members, we commenced the construction of the Kaduna Zonal Secretariat and completed it together with the hotel apartment within a year and four months. In December 2020, the Secretariat was commissioned and put to official use immediately while the union is still sourcing for a credible Hoteling organization to operate the Hotel on behalf of the Union. I wish to state here that as I address this gathering today, there are some options for the leadership awaiting consideration immediately after the conference.
With our eyes also focusing on the mandate of building a new National Secretariat for the Union, the leadership of the Union in August 2019, initiated a groundbreaking ceremony for the NUPENG TOWER at our same 9, Jibowu Street, Jibowu, Yaba, Lagos. Immediately after the groundbreaking ceremony, the construction of the 8 floors NUPENG TOWER commenced without stopping and as at this moment, the contractors have concluded work on the 8th floor of the Tower with the roofing in place. We are very confident, that everyone of us gathered here will be invited to the NUPENG TOWER Housewarming by December this year by the special grace of God if given another mandate.
Under my leadership, we have also secured a large expanse of land in Abuja for office and business purposes. The Union has since received the land allocation papers. Let me use this opportunity to commend the Petroleum Tanker Drivers Branch for the assistance in the efforts that yielded the land allocation papers.
On the Tanker Park in Port-Harcourt, skeletal business of parking of tankers has begun. The topography survey of the land has been carried out by our engineers handling the NUPENG TOWER. Work will soon commence here as the PTD branch has been mandated to handle the project. This is one of our plans to diversify sources of revenue of the Union for sustainability and growth.
- COVID-19 PANDEMIC
Just as we were trying to find our feet and direction in 2019, Covid 19 pandemic brought the whole world to its knees, and we were faced with twin challenges of massive loss of membership and income for the Union.
The gale of redundancies loomed large everywhere, but by the special grace of God, we survived and came out stronger and united despite the effects of the Covid – 19 pandemic and dismal economic performance which has drastically reduced our membership. The good thing is that the Union never allowed the pandemic to deter her from carrying out her welfare policies to members.
At the peak of the pandemic and during the Federal Government imposed lockdown, the leadership of the Union went around the Petroleum Products Depots to distribute hand sanitizers and face masks to our members whilst educating them on how to stay safe through protocols of social distancing and hand washing to prevent the spread of the virus.
- INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS
The challenges of the downturn of the nation’s economy which was further worsened by the global economic meltdown occasioned by the Covid – 19 Pandemic created so many challenges for the industrial relations system not only in the Nigeria Oil and Gas Industry but in all other sectors globally resulting into closure of businesses and gales of redundancies and loss of jobs.
Our team was able to rise to the occasion to strongly protect and defend the jobs of our members. We also commend our staff, members and managements for the mutual sacrifices made during the period for the survival of businesses and continuation of jobs.
Although, we lost some numbers of membership due to the pandemic and economic meltdown, the Union was never cowed as we ensured that those that lost their jobs were adequately compensated in line with the subsisting Collective Bargaining Agreement and in some instances with some extra gratifications.
We inherited some seemingly intractable industrial relations issues, some of which had been on ground for upward of six (6) to ten (10) years aside from continuous of Collective Bargaining Agreement, Redundancies, and other industrial relations disputes.
Some of the issues are:
One of the well-known seemingly difficult issue that we inherited and successfully resolved was that of the 2012 short payment of terminal benefits to former staff of Big Six Labour Contractors. This was an issue that had defied all solution from the previous regime spanning several years.
We are very proud to report to this great gathering, that our administration stepped in and was able to handle this age long struggle to a very positive and successful conclusion with the signing of landmark agreement which provide for the sum of 2.1 million naira to each of the 1710 workers affected. This is a great victory for the Union.
- VALIANT ENERGY
Another landmark struggle we took on immediately we assumed leadership was that of one employer that had already eloped with workers terminal benefits even before we came on board.
Thirty-Nine contract staff, who were members of the Union, worked for the Valiant Energy Services West Africa on a Drilling Rig for Total E&P from January 2018 to June 2019 and when the contract ended, the Owner of the Company disappeared into thin air and no one could trace him including security agencies.
Through creative and well-coordinated efforts of the leadership and solidarity from other contract workers working for this same man on Shell Drilling Rig, we were able as well to successfully resolve this lingering impasse between Valiant Energy and the Union. The 39 workers were eventually paid their severance benefits and our collective efforts yielded another milestone achievement.
III. AMCON VS SEAWOLF
We also inherited the case of former staff of defunct Seawolf and AMCON. The matter was already in court before we came in and we followed it up from where we met the case.
Unfortunately, after a lengthy trial at the National Industrial Court (NIC), Abuja Judicial Division, judgment was given against the workers and Union. The Union sought for advice from an external counsel who advised us that the matter was not diligently and competently handled right from the beginning and in view of what was argued and presented at the lower court our chances on appeal would be very slim. Based on that, we have decided to seek diplomatic and political solution to resolve the matter by seeking audience with the new management of AMCON on how to find a compassionate resolution of the matter for the workers. These are just few among numerous successful IR issues that were handled by this outgoing leadership.
- BIOMETRIC IDENTITY CARD
As part of our effort to build positive brand for our great Union and protect the good image we inherited from our founding fathers, the leadership of the Union under my watch initiated the development of digitalized biometric identification cards for our members in the informal sector. This we believe will help to keep our identity safe from fraudsters and imposters who are found of faking our identity cards and image to defraud members of the public and as well carry out criminal and nefarious activities in the Oil and Gas sector.
The first phase of the initiative has been successfully concluded for the informal sector branches and the new identity cards have been distributed. The identity card is now being used to conduct elections in the informal sector branches which has gone a long way to simplify and authenticate our accreditation processes during elections.
As evidence of how widely acceptable the project is, Delegates at the recently convened Special Delegates Conference the Union, unanimously adopted the motion to extend the coverage of the new initiative to even members in the formal sector of the Union. With this resolution from the Special Delegates Conference, the second phase of the biometric identity card will soon commence to cover all our members in the formal sector branches.
- UNION STAFF
When we came onboard, it was evidently clear to us that we needed to boost the morale of the staff of the Union, improve the tools/equipment of their work and inject new blood with required skills and competence into the system.
To address the obvious gaps, our administration immediately on assumption of duty, reviewed the salaries and allowances of staff (the review has been done twice since we came on board), we cleared backlogs of promotions and bought working tools and equipment for staff to work with. These included Computers/ laptops and SUV vehicles for Head of departments to facilitate their activities across the country.
Staff were also sent on series of trainings and skill enhancement programmes, all these we believe have enhanced the productivity levels of these staff.
The leadership also employed new staff into the Union based on areas of urgent needs, skills and competence of those employed. We employed a total of 15 new staff while seven staff retired and exited the Union during this period. I am very pleased to inform you that the entitlements of all retired staff were promptly paid.
During the period of our first tenure, we executed several trainings successfully for different categories of structures in the zones, at the National level and for the Women Committee leadership.
We were able to successfully secure sponsorship for all the National Executive Council (NEC) members to be trained outside the shores of this country. This helped in exposing them to best practices and standards globally.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t embark on any national training in the past two years due to the constraints of Covid – 19 Pandemic.
VII. WOMEN COMMITTEE DELEGATES CONFERENCE
In November 2020, the National Women Committee Delegates Conference was convened and successfully held in Warri, Delta State, where new National leadership emerged. The previous executives led by Comrade Thelma Ndukwe Ona handed over to the new executives led by Comrade Adesua Orhibabor.
In line with our constitutional provisions, the Chairperson, Secretary and Treasurer of the Women Committee have automatically become members of the NEC as provided by the NUPENG Constitution. Also, with the amendment of the Constitution, the Trustee of the Women Committee has become a NEC member too.
VIII. YOUTH COUNCIL
In line with global practice, NUPENG successfully inaugurated Youth Council to handle the affairs of young Union members with Protem officers of these Councils in all the zones of the Union.
- STRUGGLES/CAMPAIGN AGAINST INDECENT WORK
- a) SHELL
The challenge of indecent work is still on the increase in the Oil and Gas Industry. Nigerians working in the Nigeria Oil and Gas industry, most especially those employed by the 3rd party Contractors are suffering under the yoke of indecent employment with their rights and privileges being constantly trampled upon.
Union took her campaign against indecent work most especially in Shell Petroleum Development Company’s operation to SHELL AGM meetings in Hague, Switzerland in 2018 and 2019 with support from IndustriALL Global Union. These campaigns were successful to the extent that we put the plight of these workers to the global space for discussion. The outcomes include some appreciable improvement in their situation with the signing of the Collective Bargaining Agreement for the Contract workers in Shell Petroleum Development Company.
The Union is vehemently kicking against all forms of casualisation in the oil and gas industry which is a form of modern-day slavery. The multinational oil companies are consistently taking advantage of the loopholes in our laws to continue the practice.
We will continue to fight and make sure that our members enjoy good condition of service. We will not rest on our oars in the fight to end casualisation but in the meantime we will ensure that all our members are protected at their place of work.
- INFRASTRUCTURAL DEVELOPMENT – ROADS
As part of our campaigns and struggles for good working conditions for our members, we have consistently been engaging the Federal Government on the need to put our highways in good conditions.
I am very pleased to inform this wonderful gathering that through the intervention of the management of NNPC, our campaign has yielded the approval of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) to use Six Hundred and Twenty-One Billion Naira (N621 Billion) Tax relief to complete the construction and rehabilitation of Twenty-One (21) critical roads across the country.
We commend the initiative of NNPC for this and the Federal Executive Council for the unique approval.
I want to express my deep appreciation and thanks for our entire members in the area of support, cooperation and loyalty in moving the Union forward. I can never take your support for me and my leadership for granted.
As we continue this journey, we will continue to do our best in making sure that workers’ rights are not suppressed and will use all available power within our ambit to defend you all.
Be that as it may, my heart is pained due to the current situation bedeviling our country Nigeria.
STATE OF THE NATION
- CASUALIZATION / CONTRACT STAFFING
The level of casualization / contract staffing under the guise of outsourcing has been turned to slave employment across the oil and gas industry. A situation where core activities of oil and gas operations in companies are carried out by casual workers is gradually spelling doom for the industry if not checked. As high productivity cannot be expected when those handling critical operations are treated like slaves and ill motivated. We hereby call on relevant monetary agencies to rise to the occasion by ensuring that global standards are maintained on human capital issues across the industry.
We are very much disturbed about the insecurity and senseless killings, kidnappings, farmer/herders’ clashes going around the country. It is not wrong to say that nowhere and indeed no one is safe in Nigeria today. The media is awash with news of one form of trouble or the other.
I know security is the responsibility of all of us, but may I use this medium to further call on the Federal and State Governments to stand up to their most important constitutional duty to protect and safeguard the lives and properties of all Nigerians. The Police and other security operatives should be empowered with new technological apparatus needed to intelligently combat this situation.
The increasing level of insecurity is discouraging both national and international investors from doing any meaningful investment in the country. This unfortunate situation is creating more unemployment, business closures and poverty rates in the country. In this regard we believe that State and Community policing should be the way forward in tackling this menace.
- PETROLEUM INDUSTRY ACT (PIA)
The Union wishes to appreciate the distinguished members of the National Assembly for the passage the Petroleum Industry Act into law which has been in the works for the past twelve (12) years. Of course, like every law, this one is not perfect as there have been reservations from several quarters, but we are grateful that we have an Act that will help to improve the accountability and transparency in the oil and gas sector in Nigeria. We however demand that the Steering Committee that is working to put the implementation in place must be transparent and take on board all labor issues to the satisfaction of the oil and Gas workers
- STATE OF THE REFINERIES
The deplorable state of the four refineries in the country is disheartening and disturbing not only to the Union but to the entire nation.
We are really worried and concerned that a country with the resources and the population like Nigeria still dependent on importation, thereby exporting jobs and resources to other countries. The Federal Government should be up and doing to ensure that the refineries are working to reduce importation.
Though we commend the present efforts of Government to revamp the refineries, we however note that the process is becoming too slow and should therefore be expedited for the common good of all as Nigerians are running out of patience since the present arrangement of importing petroleum products for local consumption have grave negative economic consequences.
Fellow Comrades, Distinguished Guests, Veterans, ladies and gentlemen of the Press, kindly permit me at this point to use this opportunity on behalf of outgoing National Executive council to appreciate our friend, my friend and ‘co-visioneer’, the General Secretary of NUPENG, COMRADE OLAWALE O. AFOLABI (the guarantor) for his untiring efforts in ensuring that the Next Level ship sailed ashore. Same appreciation goes to all other staff of the union rank and file for their steadfastness and loyalty to the course of the union.
Lastly and again, I welcome you to this august occasion and wish you journey mercies on your return to your various destinations at the conclusion of the business session of this conference.
Thank you for your rapt attention and may God bless us all!