Nigerian: Why FG, NASS Must Save 2000 Capital Oil Workers Now by Ikenna Asomba

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Nigerian: Why FG, NASS Must Save 2000 Capital Oil Workers Now by Ikenna Asomba

In the last few days, the Mainstream Media and Social Media have been abuzz with the arrest and detention of the Chairman, Capital Oil and Gas Industries Limited, Dr. Patrick Ifeanyi Ubah, by Nigeria’s secret Police, the Department of State Services, DSS.

The DSS is said to have acted upon a petition by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, alleging that Capital Oil and Gas diverted Petroleum Products stored in its farm in Lagos.

However, Capital Oil and Gas, has argued that the matter is a civil contractual matter which needed no Media Hoopla or involvement of the Security agencies.

Having gone through the facts of the dispute between NNPC and Capital Oil and Gas, it must be clarified that the contract between Capital Oil and NNPC where NNPC stores its Petroleum Product in the Lagos Tank Farm of the former is known as THROUGHPUT AGREEMENT.

The ThroughPut Agreement allows “conversion and diversion of IT products by “operators” so long as the operator is prepared to re-deliver the products within 7 days of demand by the products owner or to pay a penalty for non-re-delivery.

Therefore, failure by one party to re-deliver is a “mere” breach of contract, remediable by the payment of penalty to the owner.

There can be no issue of crime in conversion or diversion of product, and does not call for the intervention of any law enforcement agency.

The Throughput Agreement expressly states that any penalty due for non-re-delivery is to be treated as a debt.

Therefore, it must be clarified that the DSS or its Sister security agencies are not supposed to act as debt collectors.

NNPC OWES CAPITAL OIL AND GAS

It has never been denied by the NNPC that it owes Capital Oil and Gas over N16billion represented as follows:

$5,540,000 (N2.2billion) – unpaid berthing fees for NNPC vessels that called at our Jetty.

$2,952,555 (N1billion) -invoice for chartered vessels to carryout STS operations Lagos offshore to ferry product (PMS) to storage at the request of NNPC since 2015.

N1.170billion- amount owed to Capital Oil & Gas Industries Ltd for throughput services from March to October 2016.

N3.146billion: payment made to NNPC for 26,820m litres of PMS vide Pro-forma Invoice No. 53598 which is yet to be delivered to us.

N2.0billion- Payment to NNPC in April to facilitate the release of the Managing Director and engender reconciliation which NNPC reneged on.

N6.266billion- N0.80k and N0.40 Jetty Throughput charge on over 7 billion litres dispensed for NNPC by Capital Oil and Gas.

This debt has run since 2015. So, did Capital Oil and Gas call law enforcement agencies to collect the debt?

It must be stated that DSS continued arrest and incarceration of the Chairman of Capital Oil, Dr. Ifeanyi Ubah is nothing but Meddlesomeness in a civil matter that requires mere Reconciliation of Account Books.

DSS, FREE IFEANYI UBAH NOW

Without much ado, I call on the DSS to unconditionally release Dr. Ifeanyi Ubah now, following the order of Justice Muhammed Idris of the Federal High Court in Ikoyi, Lagos.

Justice Idris has ordered the DSS to produce Dr. Ubah before his court on Friday, May 12, 2017, and show why the oil mogul should not be released unconditionally.

The judge was ruling in the ex-parte application filed by Ifeoma Esom, counsel to Mr. Ubah’s, to compel his release from the custody of DSS where he has been since May 6.

SAVING OVER 2000 CAPITAL OIL AND GAS STAFF

There is no doubt that Dr. Ubah’s Capital Oil and Gas, is the biggest oil firm in the Petroleum Downstream sector. Capital Oil and Gas boasts of over 2000 Workers. Even the NNPC retail outlet could only boast of a paltry 300 workers.

So, the question becomes, what would the President Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government wants to happen to over 2000 workers, with this latest onslaught to shutdown or suspend activities at Capital Oil and Gas?

The collateral effect that will see over 2000 innocent Nigerian workers forced into the Labour market again, is what must be considered by the President Buhari-led Federal Government in this latest onslaught against Capital Oil and Gas over a civil contractual matter. What will happen to the various families of these workers who are bread winners in their different homes?

In the Petroleum Downstream Sector, Capital Oil and Gas is renowned for its unflinching efforts in bettering the lots of its workers.

WHEN NLC HONOURED IFEANYI UBAH FOR STAFF WELFARE

It was against this backdrop that in September 2016, the Lagos State Chapter of the Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC, led by its Chairman, Comrade Tokunbo Korodo, honoured Dr. Ubah over what it described as the various milestones he (Ubah) has achieved in the oil industry, as well as his promotion of the welfare of Nigerian workers and the masses generally.

Then, the Chairman, NLC, Lagos chapter, Comrade Tokunbo Korodo, who led other executive members of the congress to present the awards to Capital Oil and Gas, as well as to Ubah in his personal capacity, said the various milestones Dr. Ubah has achieved in the oil industry, coupled with the promotion of the welfare of Nigerian workers, and the masses, geared the awards.

Korodo had said: “The various milestones you have achieved in the oil industry, considering your glowing pedigree, and coupled with your present stance on the promotion of the welfare of Nigerian workers and the masses generally is to us in the NLC very exemplary.

“We are here today to appreciate your magnanimity and your service to humanity. You are a role model to us and the younger generation of this country, a ray of hope, compassionate, and a philanthropist of inestimable value.

“This visit comes to serve as a solemn notification to you through this auspicious Honour that you are a rare gem in our modern day Nigeria, and indeed, your foray in the areas of business, politics, sports development and human capital development are testimonies of your forthrightness, ingenuity and determination to leave positive footprints for posterity.”

Continuing, the Labour leader expressed regret that the people of Anambra State failed to vote Ubah in 2013, saying, “You have touched the lives of people with the enormous milk of human kindness. Your sheer desire to allow for free flow of more of this quintessential humane touch was largely displayed when you forayed into the gubernatorial race in your dear state, Anambra under Labour Party.

“How we wished the people of Anambra know what they missed or are missing by denying the state the luxury of your endowed leadership. “On behalf of my colleagues here, I want to appreciate your interests for workers and most significantly implore your pursuit to give more to workers through capacity building, and an improved workers’ welfare as we encourage you with this token (awards) to properly register our profound appreciation to you.”

Also, recognising the collateral damage the shutdown of Capital Oil and Gas would cause for over 2000 workers, the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) has called on the Federal Government to embrace the use of dialogue to resolve the lingering impasse between the management of Capital Oil and Department of State Services (DSS), over the alleged illegal sale of petroleum products stored in their tank farm by the NNPC.

The union stated that workers have the right to protest the non-payment of their salaries and allowances and that the Federal Government should secure the jobs of those working in the sector.

NUPENG, in a statement signed by its President, Igwe Achese, stressed that although it does not support the alleged illegal diversion and sale of petroleum products, it was of the opinion that the Federal Government cannot sit still and watch workers lose their jobs.

The Union also made reference to the case of Seawolf Oil Services that was taken over by the Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) in which it says workers are yet to be paid their backlog of salaries and entitlements for over five years.

The statement had read: “NUPENG believes that the job creation mantra of the government should be allowed to play, rather than paving way for job losses as it is the case of the current closure of Capital Oil.”

It therefore called on the government to allow the 2,000 workers to resume work at the depot and load products so that their salaries can be paid, “instead of throwing them into the unemployment market for no fault of theirs”.

Against this backdrop, I call on the Federal Government currently led by Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, to call the DSS and the NNPC to order. The NNPC and Capital Oil and Gas have been business partners over the years. So, they must seek for Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) to settle their differences, instead of this whole Media Hoopla, as if they were sworn enemies.

No doubt, Capital Oil and Gas boasts of having a capacity to store over 60 per cent of NNPC’s petroleum products, so, this current impasse would not stop the NNPC and Capital Oil and Gas from doing businesses. This current impasse must not be politicised.

I therefore also call on the Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara to intervene into this impasse. The life of over 2000 Nigerian Workers is more important than any impasse or contractual disagreement between NNPC and Capital Oil and Gas.

Ikenna Asomba is a Social Commentator.

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