AKHERE Godwin, Benin
Staff of the Nigeria Petroleum Development Company (NPDC), Thursday, asked the Federal Government to reverse the alleged sale of one of the nation’s priced oil wells, OML42 to some individuals in the country. This is as they threatened to shut down the entire flow stations in the country if their demand if the government fails to heed their call.
The aggrieved staff who also issued a 7-day ultimatum to the company to reverse the sale, also disclosed of threats by the company to terminate their appointments if the ultimatum is not withdrawn and further protests shelved.
The workers had protested within the premises of the NPDC at Sapele Road, in Benin City, the Edo State capital, Monday before they were dispersed by armed police men.
It was learnt that crisis in the company heightened last Tuesday when staff reportedly received a memo to hand over some parts of the assets of the company to a business mogul, who has been a contractor to the company, to which the workers vowed to resist.
An inside source narrated the incident, saying: “What is happening is that first of all, the Federal Government erred by appointing a lawyer as MD of NPDC, because you are bringing in somebody who does not know anything in the oil industry to head the NPDC shows they have sinister motive.
“Early this year, we heard a rumour that the Federal Government wants to sell off one of our biggest assets OML42 which they bought from Shell because all the Shell assets were handed over to NPDC, NNPC. When we heard of this rumour we confronted the MD about it but he denied it because we told them that it is not possible. But we were shocked last week when we were told that they hurriedly sold one of the assets because we have the Ogidi 1 and 2, Egua, Jones Creek and they are one of the largest oil wells in West Africa.
“Just last week, we received a circular from the Minister of Petroleum asking workers to hand over to the person that bought it. So we refused and that was how the problem started. Our argument is that the asset was not advertised so that people will bid for it. This was done under cover and that is illegal. Our protest started since last week Thursday and we have issued them an ultimatum. If they fail to reverse the decision after seven days we will shut down all the flow stations in the country. So that Nigerians will ask questions.
“What they are doing is illegal and criminal and if we allow it they will sell more before the end of this administration. We are worried with the rush at which these things are being sold off. Now we are being threatened of sack if we don’t keep quiet but we told the MD we will not keep quiet. The person they sold the asset to is one of our contractors but suddenly they sold the entire asset to him.
“The action has justified our earlier fears when they brought a lawyer from Abuja to come and head NPDC, we knew he came to do a hatchet job and we have seen it today. We also want the in-coming President, Gen.Muhammadu Buhari to hear this because if the entire assets are sold, there will be nothing left in our oil industry. The whole thing will now be in the hands of powerful individuals in the society”.
It would be recalled that a former Group Executive Director of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NPDC), Dr Chris Ogiemnwonyi had early in the year raised an alarm that the appointment of a lawyer as the Managing Director of the NPDC by the Federal Government was a ploy to sell the assets of the company and run the oil industry aground.
As at the time of filling in this report, higher authorities of the corporation could not be reached for comment as security personnel asked journalists to come back.