By; PATRICK TITUS, Uyo
The National Engineering and Technical Company (NETCO) workers have laid siege on ExxonMobil’s main entrance, preventing normal business activities at the Qua Iboe Terminal (QIT) in Ibeno, Akwa Ibom State.
NETCO is a contracting firm to ExxonMobil. Its workers who protested over what they alleged as un-paid entitlements, have turned ExxonMobil facility to prayer ground, where they pray daily from morning to mid-day.
Mr Udeme Bassey, the Leader of the protesters told journalists on Thursday that their colleagues, numbering 300 were at ExxonMobil main gate on a spiritual exercise praying to God to intervene in their situation, saying that “we started prayers from nine in the morning to midday”.
Bassey explained that the non-payment of their entitlements has caused untold hardship to their families, alleging that the multinational oil company since the 11 days of the protest had refused to pay them their benefits.
He however, said that NETCO refused to issue appointment letters to over 1,650 workers in the area while the contract work was QIT Power Distribution Upgrade Project, (QPDUP).
Basey said that trouble started when they demanded for appointment letter from NETCO to know the terms of contract stating salary and other incentives but the company instead of addressing the concern of community workers resolved to victimised the workers by sacking them at will. “They refused to deal with the issue but resorted to play pranks on them by removing those who demand to know the condition of service for the workers as stated in the terms of contract,” he said.
He explained that the subcontractors did not demonstrate compliance with the requirements of Staffing Plan and Conditions of Service.
According to him, to promote enabling environment and further peaceful coexistence between the company and host community, a reasonable payment offer such as terminal pay-off to the community workers should be effected.
“The company, contractors/subcontractors should strategise measures for corrective action to prevent recurrence of similar or future disruptions in the community.
“We learnt they want to commission the project and we therefore decided to come out and demand for our benefits.
“They have pushed us to the wall but we don’t want to take the law into our hands. All what we are demanding is our pay-off as anything on the contrary will not be accepted by us,” Bassey said.
“We have been subjected to inhuman treatment by NETCO and ExxonMobil. As we are talking, some of our people are still working inside QIT to complete the project while they refused to hearken to our plea to pay us our money.
“They told us that they will pay us at the end of the project but today make it 11 days that we have demanded for our pay-off but none of ExxonMobil management or NETCO has come out to address us.
“They must pay all our benefits or else we will not vacate the entrance of the multinational oil company main gate, ” Bassey said.
He further appealed to Akwa Ibom Government to come to their aid as NETCO had been adamant and want to breach peace in the community.
Attempts to speak with officials of NETCO for their comments were unsuccessful as they could not be reached on phone