Leaders of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) and the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) have been contradicting each other over the industrial action called to protest some alleged irregularities in the oil sector.
On Monday, Lumumba Okugbawa, acting general secretary of PENGASSAN, directed oil workers across the country to down tools from Thursday.
The association, which gave government a seven-day ultimatum in June, blamed the proposed strike on the inability of the current administration to honour agreements contained in a May 12, 2016 communiqué.
However, on Thursday morning, Tokunbo Korodo, south-west chairman of NUPENG, said the strike have been put on hold pending a meeting with the government on Monday.
“As a result of this, we have to put the strike which is supposed to commence today on hold to allow for useful deliberations with the government representatives,” he told NAN in an interview.
Korodo said both parties had agreed to meet on Monday to deliberate on the issues affecting the unions.
He said the meeting, which was initially scheduled to take place on Thursday, had been shifted due to the public holiday.
But Francis Johnson, national president of PENGASSAN, insisted that there was no going back on the strike, accusing the government of trying to “apply fire brigade approach” to a serious matter.
Johnson alleged that the government was displaying a lack of seriousness, saying several efforts to engage them to forestall the strike were frustrated.
He said that before now, the union tried to engage the government on May 24, 2016, but it was inconclusive. Johnson added that the engagement was later fixed for June 23, 2016, which did not take place and again for June 30, 2016, which was unceremoniously cancelled with no date given.
“We see this as a deliberate attempt by the government to frustrate the discussion of the myriad of issues raised in the communiqué, which are critical to the survival of the oil and gas industry in the country,” he said.
“We have discussed this matter long enough for the government to address us but it closed its ears, now the authorities are calling for dialogue.”
Earlier on Wednesday, Samuel Olowookere, a director in the ministry of labour, said a “crucial meeting” was being convened to find a lasting solution to problems in the oil and gas sector.
However, a day later, Olowookere said the meeting had been rescheduled to 10am on Friday.
In a statement issued late Thursday, Emmanuel Ojugbana, PENGASSAN spokesman, said the strike was still on.
“There is no iota of truth in the report that the strike has been called off or suspended. As we are speaking now, some of our members that are in the offshore have been withdrawn, while others who are on critical equipment have commenced gradual shutting down of such equipment before their final disengagement,” the statement read.
“Our members, especially those in offices and downstream sector will join tomorrow (Friday) as they resume from the Eid el Fitri holiday.”