Nigeria’s main oil workers unions are expected to meet with President Olusegun Obasanjo Tuesday in Abuja to find ways to end the unrest threatening oil companies in the Niger Delta region. Last year saw a rise in violence, with more than 60 foreigners, mostly oil workers kidnapped and dozens of local oil workers killed. Tuesday’s meeting comes also as militants in the Niger Delta have issued new demands for ending the violence in the region.
John Oda is secretary general of the Nigeria Labor Congress. He explained the purpose of Tuesday’s meeting.
“The purpose of the meeting later today with Mr. President is to try to address some of the concerns of the oil workers in Nigeria as a result of the recent cases of kidnappings and hostage taking that have been going on in the oil-producing areas of the Niger Delta,” he said.
Oda said the workers are concerned about the general situation of insecurity in the region and would like a definite commitment from President Obasanjo that he would address their concerns.
“The workers are concerned about the fact that the general unrest there is caused as the result of the years of negligence of the oil producer environment. They are also concerned that a more lasting positive measures are taken to try to bring about employment for the youths of this area so that they can be persuaded to abandon the obviously unhelpful issue of taking hostages to try to draw attention to their problems,” Oda said.
He said the unions empathize with the plight of the youths of the Niger Delta region.
“To a large extent, we think one of the problems which the youths have touched upon is the general state of underdevelopment in the area, the general lack infrastructure, and we believe therefore that if there are concrete efforts that are made by the various governments and the oil companies to address these issues concretely, that they will be able to separate the genuine grievances of the people for development from the activities of criminals who take advantage of the general discontent of the public in the Niger Delta area,” he said.
Oda said the unions are resolute about going on strike unless they get assurances from President Obasanjo that something concrete would be done to protect oil workers in the Niger Delta.
“As we met last week Thursday, we heard reports that a worker had just been kidnapped the day before and his body was found the following day. So the situation is quite grave, and something needed to be done,” he said.
He hoped the meeting with President Obasanjo would have a positive outcome.
“The fact that Mr. President agreed to this meeting within three, four days, we want to believe it’s indicative of the seriousness with which the situation is viewed as very important,” he said.
Oda said the federal government, oil companies in the region, and the locals should all come together to bring the situation under control because he said the instability in the region was bad for not only the image of Nigeria but the oil companies and the Niger Delta region as a whole.