The Rivers State government yesterday morning released the 22 staff of Exxon Mobil arrested for violating its Executive Order restricting movement of persons in the state.
This is even as the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) said it has suspended the industrial action expected to commence today (Monday) in reaction to the arrest of the oil workers.
The Union said the Exxon Mobil Staff, 19 male and 2 female were released at about 9 a.m Sunday morning following the intervention of relevant authorities. The leadership of the union said an unconditional release was secured for all its members held hostage in a most horrible and inhuman condition since Thursday April 16, 2020 by Rivers State Government Authorities
PENGASSAN President, Ndukaku Ohaeri, recalled that on Thursday April 16, 2020, the Union had raised alarm over the illegal arrest and detention of 21 ExxonMobil personnel by the Rivers State Police Command on the pretext that they violated the State’s movement restriction Order put in place to curtail the spread of COVID-19.
The Union had also issued an ultimatum dated April 18, 2020 notifying all stakeholders that it would withdraw all forms of services relating to crude oil production, refining, distribution and supplies effective 12 noon, today (Monday April 20).
The Governor, in a statement, on Friday vowed that the 22 staff of the American oil firm would be prosecuted as along with two pilots and 10 passengers who flew Caverton Helicopters into the state.
But the Attorney-General who granted the release said the government will no longer press charges against them, following interventions by well-meaning Nigerians.
However, the PENGASSAN President said having achieved the primary demand in the union’s ultimatum, the union has suspended the planned industrial action.
He said: “We call on the Federal Government of Nigeria, Relevant Agencies and all Oil and Gas Industry Stakeholders to guarantee unfettered movement of oil and gas workers on essential services in all territories of the federation if we are to continue to provide these services.