Protesting Workers of Warri Refinery
Commercial activities have come to a standstill courtesy of rampaging youths and workers at the gigantic Warri Refining and Petrochemical Company, Ekpan, Delta state on Wednesday the 3rd of July, 2019.
Trouble is said to have surfaced as the refinery management failed to regularize the employment of casual workers who had been engaged by the company for several years.
The rampaging workers are said to be drawn mostly from host communities in the Niger Delta states and have been working there as contract staff. They claimed that they had an understanding with the company’s management to convert their status as contract staff into full permanent staff. However, the management has been dragging its foot in honouring the agreement.
The irate workers were said to have barricaded all entrances and routes leading to the refinery complex while bolting and locking up all entrance doors and exit to the giant industrial complex.
The rioting staffs are mostly drawn from the host communities of the refinery being Ekpan, Ubeji, Aja-Etan, Ifue-Kporo, and Ijala-Ikeren. Efforts by the security personnel made up of Policemen, Nigerian Army to disperse them prove abortive as the warring staffs rebuffed all attempt to dislodge them.
The protesting staffs accused the refinery management of deceit and lie revealing that they had been promised several times that they would be absorbed as permanent staff. However, each time recruitment is done they have not been considered. They cited the recent recruitment just concluded in Abuja whereby they were not even invited to participate as the one that broke the camel’s back.
One of the protesters, a Niger Delta Youth leader and National Secretary of the Itsekiri National Youth Council, Mr. Jemi Mene-Ejegi said the protesters would not vacate the refinery premises until the Managing Director of NNPC comes to address the contentious matter.
According to Mene-Ejegi “Initially, we wrote a letter and they called us, including the casual staff members, that the issue will be resolved. We told them to attend to the casual workers first. The second time the same thing happened which prompted the first protest.
The refinery management again called for calm. We accepted because we thought that this is our country. But from then till now, nothing has been done. Instead, they are playing a backyard game”
However, Mr. Hope Akpodiete the Warri Refinery’s Chief Security Officer and the Administrative Manager Mr. Solomon Siakpere both pleaded with the protesters to sheath their sword and engaged in dialogue with the management.
Siakpere said. “We are familiar with what is going on. As we are gathered like this, we must be able to translate the gathering into action, not make noise so that we can make progress. This is to get attention and that has been achieved. Rest assured that our corporate management is aware.”
When the NNPC spokesman Ndu Ughamadu was contacted he claims ignorance of the protests and the issues pertaining to it. He insisted that there is no discrimination in the recruitment process of the corporation and also denied the existence of any agreement to convert casual workers in the refinery into permanent staff.
According to Ughamadu “We have been announcing the various stages for recruitment. In that advertisement, it was thrown open to all the workers and they were asked to apply. How many of them apply? The casual workers were equally invited but that aside, we have engaged them. We told them that look, after this exercise there is another stage.
“If they didn’t fall into the first category, they may fall into the second category. That is what we are on. We don’t have casual workers only in the Warri refinery, we have casuals in all of our subsidiaries, including the headquarters and many of them applied, and they are undergoing interviews now. There’s no discrimination in the process. I am aware if there was an agreement with them.
“I am appealing to them to exercise some restraints. We‘ll continue to engage them to ensure that an amicable resolution is reached.