The Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) has reacted to the arrest of some of its members by Rivers State Government stressing they have broken no law.
The group in a statement by its Exxon Mobil branch on Friday called on all stakeholders to prevail on the Rivers State Government to immediately release the detained workers.
The statement, which was signed by both PENGASSAN Chairman and Secretary, Razaq Obe, and Kingsley Udoidua, noted that their workers are part of the essential workers exempted by the Federal Government from COVID-19 restriction, hence their arrest is illegal.
“Recall the Federal Government of Nigeria exempted oil and gas workers on essential service from COVID-19 restrictions in Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Lagos State and Ogun State.
“The same was mirrored in various communications from Rivers State government which have permitted unfettered movements of other IOCs’ essential service personnel and critical materials.
“We condemn the continued detention of the 21 members of our Union who stake everything to produce the oil the country depends on for survival. We call on all stakeholders to prevail on the government of Rivers State to end this most unpleasant drama. Our members have broken no law,” the statement read in part.
Narrating the incident leading to the arrest of the oil workers, the group in the statement claimed that the workers were forcefully detained and assaulted.
“At about 3:30pm on Thursday, April 16, 2020, Rivers State Commissioner of Police with his team and a top Army commander intercepted the convoy (protected by the police) conveying 21 ExxonMobil personnel who are PENGASSAN members on their way to Intels, Port Harcourt, at Bori (Akwa Ibom/Rivers boundary).
“The commissioner rebuffed all explanations and forced them to move to Elekaya Stadium, Port Harcourt, where they have been detained, verbally assaulted and starved.
“The original pretext for sending them to the stadium was to test for COVID-19 but there was no such possibility at the location; it is a construction site. They rather served them papers to write statements,” the group added.
PENGASSAN in the statement also condemned Rivers State authorities for turning the global effort to tame COVID-19 to a tool of muscle-flexing and petty oppression of oilfield workers.
Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike had earlier on Friday announced the arrest of 22 Exxon Mobil workers for coming into the state from Akwa Ibom state in violation of executive order restricting movement due to COVID-19 pandemic.