Slave Labour In AK Oil Sector – Workers Shut Down Virgin Forest Energy


Maritime activities at Ebughu seaport in Mbo Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State were grounded yesterday as leaders of the dock workers union called out their members in protest over alleged violation labour laws by the management of Virgin Forest Energy (VFE), operators of oil and gas and other maritime activities at the port.
Under the aegis of Maritime Workers’ Union of Nigeria (MWUN), Akwa Ibom State, the protesters drawn from the dock workers branch, expressed dismay at the deliberate refusal of the firm to work with professionals, but instead chose to patronize quacks.
They explained that their resort to a peaceful protest was predicated on the anti maritime practices employed by the company, adding that such action runs counter to the rules of engagement as enshrined in the Act establishing the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), the sector’s regulatory agency.
The protesters were armed placards of different inscriptions such as, “Give us our right, dock workers demand; We sleep no more; Dock workers need their rights; Stop using non-registered dock workers; Cheat dock workers; Comply with FG Acts of 2007 (Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency’s gazetted),” among others.
Speaking with journalists during the protest in the port city of Ebughu, on Monday, the District Chairman of the union, Mr. Nkereuwem Bassey, said the union has every constitutional right to make the company employ its members.
He explained that the company’s resort to the use of quacks in its operations at the port has deprived the Federal Government of its statutory remittance of 0.5 percent, which every employed dock worker was mandated to pay into the coffers of NIMASA, every month.
Besides, he disclosed that the company resorted to the use of cheap labour in order to hide detailed revenue accruable to the firm, in order to shortchange the Federal Government, through unrecorded finances.
According to him, “it wrong for the firm to operate within the seaport, has its own workers, who are not registered members of the union, as well as fail to remit the statutory requirements of 0.5 per cent deduction from workers income to the Federal Government”.
“We are here to get our rights. Our functions in tank farms, as far as Nigerian economic zone is concerned, are regulated by NIMASA, which is an agent of the Federal Government. Upon our pleas to Virgin Forest Energy to regularize the practice of hiring registered dock workers and also of remitting the statutory 0.5 to FG, has refused to comply with us, and that is the reason we are here.
“Our demands, according to Government Gazette 2007 approves that it is the registered dock worker must work, first and foremost, on shore or offshore; platform Ridge terminal, dry port and terminal, private jetty, among others.
We are here because the company refused to use registered dock workers and instead use rove-about people.
“And after finishing the goods from the vessels, they will now do away with their services. These set of workers are not parts of dock workers union do not know the intricacy of the profession. They have not been remitting 0.5 per cent per month to FG. These are some of the reasons”, he explained.
The Depot Manager, who simply identified himself as Mr. Nwachukwu, appealed to the protesting workers to remain calm, assuring that their case would be looked at a meeting scheduled for next week.