OICs faces labour unrest as foreign investors divests in droves
BY GBOGBOWA GBOWA
As Nigerian labour movement mobilizes to stage a major protest in the stream industry in view of disagreements between it and international oil companies (IOCs) some IOCs are contemplating divesting from the Nigerian market.
The ongoing standoff by the organized labour is coming under the auspices of the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) and is national umbrella body, the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), which has alleged apparent disrespect for the rules of engagement and laws of Nigeria by the IOCs.
According to sources, quite a number of the IOCs are also expressing frustrations and alleged arm twist by certain interest groups and non-governmental quasi authorities; even as quite a number of them have already begun strategic gradual divestment processes, owing to purported trade loses made worse by unfriendly and harsh operating atmosphere.
Majority of those that have concluded their divestments are believed to have found better markets and friendlier operating environments in parts of West and Central Africa, spanning the continental oil sheds north of Africa into Libya, Tunisia, Egypt etc.
Smarting from ongoing labour demands for the implementation of stevedoring guidelines which oblige IOCs to set stevedoring units in their platforms, and pressure from agencies of the federal government for the IOCs to comply, it is speculated that more are seriously considering moving out of the country, gradually paving the way for an indigenized upstream industry.
It will be recalled that the dispute over stevedoring activities at the production platforms which has dragged annoyingly between the IOCs and MWUN in the past couple of years, gathered momentum last year, echoing and ricocheting in drooling vibes; with the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) occasionally standing in the gap to make peace.
However, last week NPA and the National Petroleum Investment Management Services (NAPIMS) talked tough in the bid to prevail on the IOCs to respect the rules of engagement, just to stave off industrial unrests that could compound Nigeria’s oil economy in the face of the ongoing global crisis occasioned by the Russia/Ukraine war.
The two government agencies after a meeting with organized labour which consists of NLC, MWUN and Oil Producing Trade Section of Lagos Chamber of Commerce (OPTS) handed down a two weeks ultimatum for the IOCs provide a stevedoring base in all its wet and dry cargo platforms.
It is an order the IOCs are not in position to ignore without serious consequences, thus boxed into a corner, the IOCs endorsed the agreement to implement labour’s demand or be damned.
This is coming on the backdrop of threats by the Nigerian labour movement to commence a long drawn strike calculated to cripple production, nationwide.
As the D-Day approaches, a whitepaper has emerged where the directive was conveyed in a communiqué said to have been issued after a meeting held on Monday 28 February 2022 between representatives of NPA, NAPIMS, MWUN, Oil Producing Trade Section of Lagos Chamber of Commerce (OPTS), the International Oil Companies (IOCs) and National Association of Stevedoring Operators (NASO).
A reported copy of the communiqué from the parley reads in part: “That the IOCs should ensure that contracts on wet and dry cargo between them and assigned stevedoring operators to their respective work locations are concluded within two (2) weeks from the date of this meeting.
“That the Secretary of OPTS present at the meeting should convey to members of OPTS that were not present at the meeting, the ultimatum contained in resolution (1) above.”
Under the guise of embracing the evolving clean energy market, players in the Nigerian upstream sector have since began a steady exodus out of Nigeria into competitive regional and continental new locations.
Nigerian billionaires in the ilk of Tony Elumelu, Femi Otedola, Sayyu Dantata, Mike Adenuga, ABC Orjiako and others have been buying big into the divested assets, as household names like Shell, Mobil, , Exxon Mobil, Chevron, Agip, Texaco and Total with over 60 years historical sanction in Nigeria, continue the divestment spree and leaving one after the other.
Exxon Mobil Corporation (ExxonMobil) is the latest major oil corporation to exit Nigeria, announcing that it has sold its stake in Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited to Seplat, a Nigerian oil business, for $1.3 billion, the Guardian newspaper reports.
In 2021, UK-based Royal Dutch Shell quit Nigeria after completing the sale of its assets to TNOG Oil and Gas Ltd while Texaco sold off its assets to Chevron in 2000.
There are reports that Chevron is also looking for buyers for its OMLs 86 and 88, which the firm has been trying to get rid of more than four years ago. The assets are still up for sale after the oil major sold off its OMLs 83 and 85 in 2015.
Some of the reasons adduced for the massive divestments by the IOCs include but not limited to labour high handedness, policy shocks, increase in bunkering and vandalism of oil facilities etc.