Rights group asks government to criminalise strike in oil sector

A rights group, Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) has asked the federal government to criminalise strike in Nigerian oil and gas sector.

The Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) and the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) had on Wednesday went on strike over the alleged unbundling of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) by the Federal Government.

Although the strike was called off within 24 hours after a meeting of the leaders of both NUPENG and PENGASSAN with the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Ibe Kachikwu, who is also the Group Managing Director of NNPC,MURIC blamed the union for throwing “the country into topsy-turvy and worsened its perennial fuel crisis.”

“The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) is deeply worried by the instability in the oil sector particularly ugly events like strikes by oil workers which cause undue hardship among the citizenry and bring the nation’s economy to a grinding halt,” the group said in a statement by its Director, Ishaq Akintola, on Friday.

Mr. Akintola, a professor, said, “While we are not totally closing our eyes to the right of oil workers to collective bargaining, we are of the opinion that this right must not be abused. It is poor Nigerians who suffer when rascality and impunity become the norm in unionism particularly in a sector whose product is sine qua non to the people’s welfare.

“MURIC frowns upon the spontaneous nature of the strike as the oil workers shut down all NNPC facilities immediately the unbundling of the corporation was announced. Nigerians are asking NUPENG and PENGASSAN: what happened to notification? What effort did the unions make towards dialogue?

“We appeal to oil workers to appreciate the value of their services to the country and call on leaders of both NUPENG and PENGASSAN to exhibit responsible leadership and temper patriotism with service delivery. Leaders of workers’ unions in the oil sector should not exploit the sensitive nature of their jobs.

“Without prejudice to the welfare of oil workers, in pursuance of good governance and in the general interest of ordinary Nigerians, we call on both FG and the National Assembly to work hand in hand towards criminalising strike in the oil sector in view of the latter’s sensitive nature and its contribution to the economy.

“In conclusion, efforts should be geared towards ensuring that no workers’ union holds this country to ransom again. Nigeria is bigger than any group of workers.”

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