…call for NNPC GMD intervention
By Onome Oghenetega
Support staff of the Warri Refining and Petrochemical Company (WRPC) on Wednesday embarked on a peaceful and indefinite protest over failure by the management of the refinery to fulfill an alleged agreement to regularize their engagement as full staff.
The casual workers numbering over five hundred (500) including members of the host communities (Ekpan, Ubeji, Aja-Etan, Ifie-Kporo and Ijala-Ikeren) to the WRPC are insisting that unless the General Managing Director of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Maikanti Baru,, address their plight, the protest will continue.
The support workers who locked the entrance to the company, and later barricaded it with tents due to rainfall, are demanding conversion to staff of the company.
Security operatives including policemen and officers of the Nigerian Army, with their vehicles were also on standby.
This will mark the third time that the WRPC casual workers are protesting over the security of their jobs.
They bore placards with inscriptions such as “NNPC management, we need our conversion to staff after working for sixteen years”, WRPC, staff cannot continue to be slaves in our motherland”, President Buhari take NNPC support staff to our Next Level,” “Enough of modernised slavery in NNPC/WRPC”, “NASS kindly save us from NNPC slavery,” “Age is no more on our side. We have spent our useful age with NNPC,” “NNPC employ us with your children, what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander,” and many more.
Some of the protesters who spoke with our correspondent lamented that they have spent their productive years working for WRPC, alleging that despite series of promises to staff them fully, the second batch of staff recruitment is ongoing at the federal capital territory without them participating.
They claimed that even though most of them are graduates and certified skill workers that have been effectively doing the jobs, the company recently came up with some criteria, such as having a First class or Masters Degree, as conditions to be full staff.
However, calling on President Muhammadu Buhari to wade into the matter so as to ensure them going to their “Next Level”, they described the continuous treatment as “slavery,” considering that the company continues to recruit outsiders.
A casual staff and member of one of the host communities, Edemerukewan Emedwor noted that the protest is not to take “laws into our hands but to fight for our rights as citizens of this country, and at the same time as indigenes of the area.
“We are not slaves, we are putting our strength and resources into this job. What do they need to do for us? It is to convert us so we can have job security.”
Another, Samuel Ihadieu stated that in spite of the exposure to toxic elements and the hard labour put in every day by the casual workers, the management “in the last couple of months said “we are incompetent. We are contributing our quota to the national purse and so we demand full conversion.”
Efforts by the Chief Security Officer, Hope Akpodiete and Administrative Manager, Engr. Solomon Siakpere to talk the protesters into allowing some persons into the plant to attend to supposed safety issues and give up the protests met dead ends.
Siakpere, while addressing the workers who comprised mostly of young people, said “we are familiar with what is ongoing. 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. Be rest assured that our corporate management is aware.
Meanwhile youths bodies of the different ethnic nationalities in Delta state have shown their support for the protest.
Speaking, secretary of the Itsekiri National Youth Council (INYC), Jemi Mene-Ejegi, told our correspondent that relevant officials from Abuja will have to come down to the plant to address the matter, otherwise the protest will remain a standstill.
He explained that after several letters and then, a protest few months ago, the company promised that the casual staff will be absolved.
“Initially, we wrote a letter and they called us, excluding the casual staff, that the issue will be resolved. We told them to attend to these casual staff first. The second time, the same thing happened, which prompted the first protest.
“They (WRPC) again called for calm. We accepted, with the thinking that this is our country. But from then till now, nothing has been done. Instead they are playing a backyard game,” the youth leader said.
Responding to the management, Mene-Ejegi emphasized that not even the WRPC managing director can “handle what’s on ground. Let him call those in Abuja. Its either they bring security men to kill us all or come down to resolve the issue.”