By Raji Rasak
The Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), Lagos State Zonal Council, has expressed worry over the government’s continued deployment of a military taskforce to check Apapa gridlock.
The Chairman of the council, Mr Tayo Aboyeji, made the union’s worry known in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Monday in Lagos.
Aboyeji appealed to the Lagos State Government to urgently disband the taskforce and allow the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, the police and other security agencies to do their job in the interest of the union’s members.
He accused the military taskforce of extorting the union’s members who came to load petroleum products and urged the government to wade into the matter.
The union leader said: “I want to implore the Lagos State Government to prevail on the taskforce set up on the gridlock in Apapa to stop the extortion and harassment of our members.
“Information reaching us gives a gloomy picture of what our members are going through in Apapa.
“Our members, who go to tank farms to load products are forced to pay before they will pass to the depot.
“Those that do not have money to pay are being brutalised and manhandled before they could pass. The attitude of the taskforce should be discouraged,” Aboyeji said.
He also spoke on the bad state state of the roads and appealed to the state government to intensify repair work to ease traffic and reduce road mishaps.
“Let me appeal to Lagos State Government to please come to the aid of transporters and other motorists in the state.
“The roads that lead to Apapa are too bad. I will say they are not passable,” he said, while recommending palliative measures or rehabilitation of the roads.
The NUPENG boss attributed Apapa gridlock to bad roads, especially between Mile 2 and Tincan Island Port Second Gate as well as Marine Road at Liverpool.
He said that though the affected roads belonged to the Federal Government “but Lagosians are the ones suffering from their poor condition”.
He expressed concern over the crisis rocking the Delta zone over the alleged sack of workers, saying that Lagos zone would not hesitate to join the struggle in solidarity if government failed to intervene.
According to him, NUPENG is one and injury to one is injury to all.
“We cannot watch while our members are sacked because the company did not want its workers to belong to unions.
“We will not condone the victimisation of our members by the Nigerian Army or whoever gave them the directive. It is the right of Nigerian workers to unionise.”
NAN reports that the crisis in Delta zone resulted from an alleged forceful evacuation of about 3,000 workers from the rigs by five drilling oil rigs.
The rigs were reportedly operated by Sterling Energy Exploration Company and its drilling arm, British Oil and Gas Ltd in Kwale and Warri areas.
It was alleged that the oil firms used the military to forcefully evacuate the workers after terminating their appointments.
The national body of the union had called on the Federal Government to intervene so as to avert a nationwide industrial action.