The Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) has called for the release of its 21 members on essential duty who were arrested by security agents in Rivers State.
PENGASSAN made the call in a statement jointly signed by the President, Ndukaku Ohaeri, and the General Secretary, Lumumba Okugbawa, on Friday in Lagos.
The union expressed displeasure over the continuous harassment of its members on essential duty in the oil and gas industry despite their exemption from lockdown.
“On April 16, about 21 of our members from Exxon Mobil on essential duty going into Port Harcourt for quarantine before going offshore, were arrested by men of Nigeria security agencies under the Rivers Police Command.
“The members were arrested on the pretext of enforcing the Executive Orders assumedly proclaimed by the State Government in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic.
“We are therefore miffed that operatives of government security agencies who are vested with the responsibilities to enforce laws should turn around to intimidate and harass our members who are on legitimate and patriotic duty as essential workers.
“Our association condemns this new form of intimidation and therefore demands an unconditional release of all the 21 staff of ExxonMobil still under detention with apologies,” it said.
The union said it would not hesitate to order its members out of the various oil platforms, rigs and other facilities without further notices if the harassment persisted.
It called on the federal government and stakeholders to, as a matter of national economic urgency, prevail on security agencies in Rivers and other states to stop harassment of workers on essential duties.
“The association also demands the establishment of COVID-19 testing centre in Port Harcourt where all oil and gas workers going to rigs and offshore platforms will be tested before sending them to such work locations.
“This is as against quarantining them for two weeks before going to work with the attendant psychological and cost implications on workers and organisations respectively,” it said.